No Justice, No Peace
Andrea L. McArdle
CUNY School of Law
April 1, 2001
ZERO TOLERANCE: QUALITY OF LIFE AND THE NEW POLICE BRUTALITY IN NEW YORK CITY, NYU Press, 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
Date posted: July 19, 2008
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