It is rare for a week to go by that there is not a media report concerning an incident somewhere in the country of excessive use of force by law enforcement.
The Rodney King incident, which sparked riots in Los Angeles, has become synonymous with the excessive use of force by police. New York City's police department has received national attention during recent years for incidents involving its police officers excessive use of force. A 1998 eight-month investigation by the Washington Post found a pattern of "reckless and indiscriminate" shootings by police officers during that decade, "the extent of which had been hidden from public scrutiny through inadequate investigations and oversight" (United pp).
In fact, shootings by DC police doubled between 1992 and 1995, even though homicides had fallen from a record peak in 1991 and from mid-1993, there were fifty-four cases in which police had fired at vehicles, none of whose occupants had shot at officers, killing nine unarmed motorists and wounding nineteen (United pp). Court records and police files found that many internal investigations were riddled with omissions and errors and the majority of the 422 police shootings examined by an internal police review board from 1993 to 1998 were ruled justified and in only two cases were charges brought against the officers (United pp). Other examples are Chicago where police officers shot seventy-one people in 1998, and San Francisco where police shootings rose from two in 1996 to twelve in 1998 (United pp).
Although some police officers have been fired following high profile cases, most escape any discipline even when complaints have been upheld by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (United pp).
Moreover, prosecution of officers is rare due to the code of silence among departments and the reluctance of prosecutors to pursue criminal charges because they rely on police co-operation in other cases (United pp). The NYPD's poor disciplinary record in excessive force cases is believed to be one of the factors behind a 'pattern and practice' lawsuit brought before the review by the Justice Department (United pp). The remarkable rise in incidents involving excessive use of force by police officers throughout the country accompanied by lack of investigative and disciplinary procedures indicates a systemic problem.