Have Reforms in Recent Years Reduced Police Misconduct in the U.S.?

 Posted on March 19,2024 in Criminal Law

Blog ImageOver the past decade, the need for police reform has become more and more evident. There have been a large number of high-profile cases in which suspects were killed by police officers who were accused of using excessive force. These include the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Tyre Nichols, and many others. While efforts have been made to reform the practices of police departments and hold officers accountable for their actions, the question remains as to whether significant progress has been made.

People who have been the victims of civil rights violations or other forms of misconduct by police officers can sometimes feel like they have no options. Because the justice system is often focused on prosecuting criminals, police officers are usually given the benefit of the doubt. For those who have been falsely accused and charged with criminal offenses after being subject to police violence or other forms of misconduct, it is important to work with an attorney who understands the best approach to take when defending against criminal charges and addressing civil rights violations.

Ongoing Police Reform Efforts

In 2020, the death of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota sparked nationwide protests. Video captured by bystanders showed that a police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. This was just one example of unnecessary police brutality that led to the death of suspects, and it led people to call for accountability for officers who use excessive force and violate people’s civil rights.

However, while criminal justice advocates and lawmakers have called for reform, the results have been mixed. Killings of suspects by police officers still continue to occur, and Black people and other minorities are disproportionately affected. One study found that the number of cases in which police officers faced charges has increased. Between 2020 and 2023, 71 officers were charged for murder or manslaughter after shooting suspects, while there were only 43 officers charged between 2016 and 2019. Notably, this study only examined shooting deaths, so cases such as those of George Floyd were not included.

Charges against police officers who engage in misconduct are only one step in the process of seeking accountability. When officers are charged with crimes, this is no guarantee that they will be convicted, and even if they are convicted, they may not receive significant sentences that fit the severity of the offenses committed against suspects. Demonstrating that officers engaged in misconduct can sometimes be difficult, since juries may believe that they were doing their best in chaotic situations and used lethal force because they were afraid for their own safety. However, victims of police violence can often receive some measure of justice by seeking lawsuits against police departments that address violations of their civil rights.

The Role of Body Camera Footage

Video footage is one issue that has been increasingly important in cases involving alleged police misconduct. As part of their ongoing reforms, many states have required police officers to wear body cameras that capture their interactions with the public. However, with millions of hours of footage being captured and stored, sifting through this information can be difficult. Since police departments control how video footage is stored and accessed, little has been done to review officers’ practices and ensure that they are taking steps to avoid excessive force.

This may be changing, as some organizations are seeking to use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to review and analyze police body camera footage. AI systems can be trained to look for interactions that have a higher potential for violence, flagging certain cases for review or identifying officers who are more likely to engage in misconduct. While it remains to be seen whether this will have any meaningful impact on police misconduct, criminal justice advocates are hopeful that this technology can be used to help reduce instances of excessive force.

Contact Our Hartford Criminal Defense Lawyer

At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we understand the difficulties that criminal suspects often face, especially when they are falsely accused of violating the law after being subject to violence or misconduct by police. Our Connecticut criminal defense attorney fights to protect the rights of defendants and help them address issues related to excessive force or other violations of their civil rights by law enforcement. To arrange a free consultation and get the legal representation you need in these situations, contact us at 860-290-8690.

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