No Justice, No Peace

Andrea L. McArdle

CUNY School of Law

April 1, 2001


Based on available data, successful excessive-force prosecutions against police officers in New York City typically have been limited to the most publicized cases of deadly force or torture. It is thus unsurprising that the routine, gratuitous use of force that accompanies arrests and street encounters typically goes entirely unpunished and often unrecognized. When excessive-force allegations come to the attention of prosecutors, institutional pressures (some structural, others informal) can work against successful prosecution. When a police officer is indicted on excessive-force charges, typically the officer waives a jury trial and proceeds before a judge as the trier of fact. In urban bench trials, judges have shown themselves to have complicated responses to police witnesses, responses that work to the advantage of police officers charged with crimes. The chapter examines the situation in New York City in the 1990s with respect to prosecution of police officers and considers how institutions that fail to address police violence reproduce all-too-familiar patterns of exclusion within the legal order. The chapter acknowledges the limitations of relying solely on criminal prosecution as a response to police brutality; a remedial system that emphasizes individual instances of past misconduct cannot get at the root of systemic racial and gender/sexuality bias. However, the chapter concludes that the symbolic and deterrent effects of the criminal law are needed to begin to repair the damage to communities whose experience of the legal system has offered no sense of justice or occasion for peace.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: public order, policing, police brutality, criminal law, criminal justice, broken windows theory, quality of life policing, zero tolerance policing

JEL Classification: K14, K42

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Date posted: July 19, 2008  

Suggested Citation

McArdle, Andrea L., No Justice, No Peace (April 1, 2001). ZERO TOLERANCE: QUALITY OF LIFE AND THE NEW POLICE BRUTALITY IN NEW YORK CITY, NYU Press, 2001. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1162025

Contact Information

Andrea L. McArdle (Contact Author)
CUNY School of Law ( email )
2 Court Square
Room 4/309
Long Island City, NY 11101
United States
(718) 340-4348 (Phone)
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