Violent Police-Citizen Encounters: An Analysis of Major Newspaper Accounts

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This paper investigates trends in police brutality using data found through the Lexis/Nexis system. Using the keywords "police brutality," 15 newspapers classified as "major papers" by the Lexis/Nexis service were searched for descriptions of incidents of police misconduct against citizens that appeared from January 1, 1990 to May 31, 1992. One hundred and thirty distinct incidents of police brutality were analyzed based on the race and gender of the officers and of the victim, as well as issues of socioeconomic class. The situational characteristics surrounding the alleged assault were categorized and discussed. Minority citizens were involved in the vast majority of the incidents. The data also suggested a definite lack of penalties against the officers involved in abusive actions against citizens. Further, a citizen was equally likely to be assaulted for a disrespectful attitude towards a law enforcement officer than if the citizen had posed a serious bodily threat to the officer or another human being.

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Critical Sociology, v. 22, issue 2, p. 29-49