Human Rights Watch
June, 1998

Human Rights Watch is an international organization dedicated to protecting human rights. It pursues this objective by investigating human rights abuses in some seventy countries around the world. Its basic goal is to hold governments accountable if they transgress the rights of people. In mid-1995, Human Rights Watch launched a systematic study of police brutality in the United States and the related question of how effectively all levels of government were working to combat this problem. The report was written by Allyson Collins, a senior researcher in the organization's Washington office, after visits to fourteen cities in the United States. Although the basic responsibility for dealing with police abuses properly lies with the individual police departments, the federal government has long accepted its role as a court of last resort. To explore how well or poorly the Justice Department handled this responsibility from 1989 to 1996, Human Rights Watch hired TRAC to provide it data. The specific mission: what was the record of the FBI and the offices of the 90 U.S. Attorneys in processing matters brought under two statutes outlawing the police abuses. The data showed that the vast majority of all such matters recommended for prosecution by the FBI are rejected by prosecutions. In June of 1998, Human Rights Watch published Shielded from Justice, a 440-page report on police brutality and accountability in the United States. One section of the report concluded that the widespread reluctance of the federal government to take on these matters was a factor in making police brutality "one of the most serious, enduring, and divisive human rights violations in the United States."

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2000
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