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The Christian Science Monitor
January 22, 2015

Ferguson shooting: why federal charges are unlikely, despite more scrutiny (+video)
By By Patrik Jonsson

The US Constitution says no one may be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” – which until 1945 meant a police officer was guilty if he or she unjustifiably beat or killed someone. But the Supreme Court fine-tuned the definition in 1945, adding the idea that an officer had to have willfully intended to violate someone’s constitutional rights to be found guilty. As a result, federal charges can be relatively rare. In the New York City district, which includes Staten Island, where Eric Garner died this summer after a police chokehold, the Justice Department has indicted two officers out of a total of 16 civil rights investigations since 2009. Yet at the same time, the Department of Justice appears to have stepped up actions against various police officers in just the past year. The department opened 52 new prosecutions into alleged civil rights violations by law enforcement in 2014, a 100 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which compiles federal statistics. It also reported 42 convictions involving civil rights violations by police, a 61 percent increase over 2013.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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