Brutalidad policial

Brutalidad policial

Brutalidad policial

January 31 1919: David Kirkwood en el suelo después de ser capturado por policías Glasgow

Brutalidad policial es un término utilizado para describir el uso excesivo de fuerza física, asalto, ataques verbales y amenazas por policías y otras fuerzas del orden público. El término también se puede aplicar al mismo comportamiento de los oficiales de prisiones. Está muy extendida en muchos países, incluso en aquellos que la persiguen.[1] La brutalidad es una de las formas de mala conducta policial, que incluye falsos arrestos, intimidación, represión política, racismo, abuso de vigilancia, abuso sexual y corrupción policial.



A lo largo de la historia, los esfuerzos para las sociedades policiales han sido estropeados por la brutalidad en algún grado. En el mundo antiguo, las entidades de vigilancia activamente cultivaron una atmósfera de terror, y el tratamiento abusivo fue repartido en la búsqueda de subyugación y control. Por ejemplo, el Nuevo Testamento registra muchos incidentes en la cual guardias romanos infligieron violencia injustificada a miembros de la creciente minoría cristiana..

In the English-speaking world, most modern police departments were first established in the nineteenth century, and in the early days cases of police brutality were frequent. In her book Street Justice: A History of Police Violence in New York City, researcher Marilynn S. Johnson describes "the routine bludgeoning of citizens by patrolmen armed with nightsticks or blackjacks.".[2] Large-scale incidents of brutality were often associated with labor unrest, such as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the Pullman Strike of 1894, the Lawrence textile strike of 1912, the Ludlow massacre of 1914, the Steel strike of 1919, and the Hanapepe massacre of 1922.

March 7 1965: Alabama police attack Selma-to-Montgomery Marchers (Federal Bureau of Investigation photograph)
March 3, 1991: Rodney King beaten by LAPD officers
April 21 2001: Police fire CS gas at protesters during the Quebec City Summit of the Americas. The Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP later concluded the use of tear gas against demonstrators at the summit constituted "excessive and unjustified force."

In the United States, the passage of the Volstead Act (popularly known as the National Prohibition Act) in 1919 had a long-term negative impact on policing practices. By the mid-1920s, crime was growing dramatically in response to the demand for illegal alcohol. Undermanned and with limited resources, many law enforcement agencies stepped up the use of unlawful practices. By the time of the Hoover administration (1929-1932), the issue had risen to national concern and a National Committee on Law Observation and Enforcement (popularly known as the Wickersham Commission) was formed to look into the situation.[3] The resulting "Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement" (1931) concluded that "[t]he third degree--that is, the use of physical brutality, or other forms of cruelty, to obtain involuntary confessions or admissions--is widespread."[4] In the years following the report, landmark legal judgements such as Brown v. Mississippi helped to cement a legal obligation to respect the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[5]

In the 1960s, the African-American Civil Rights Movement had to overcome numerous incidents of police brutality in its struggle for justice and racial equality, notably during the Birmingham campaign of 1963-64 and during the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965. Media coverage of the brutality sparked national outrage, and public sympathy for the movement grew rapidly as a result.

During the Vietnam War, anti-war demonstrations were sometimes quelled through the use of billy-clubs and CS gas, commonly known as tear gas. The most notorious of these assaults took place during the August 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The actions of the police were later described as a "police riot" in the Walker Report to the US National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence.[6]

As was the case with Prohibition during the 1920s and 1930s, the "War on Drugs" initiated by President Richard M. Nixon in 1969 has been marked by increased police misconduct. Critics contend that a "holy war" mentality[7] has helped to nurture a "new militarized style of policing" where "confrontation has replaced investigation.".[8]

In the United States, race and police brutality continue to be closely linked, and the phenomenon has sparked a string of race riots over the years. Especially notable among these incidents was the uprising caused by the arrest and beating of Rodney King on March 3, 1991 by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department. The atmosphere was particularly volatile because the brutality had been videotaped by a bystander and widely broadcast afterwards. When the four law enforcement officers charged with assault and other charges were acquitted, the 1992 Los Angeles Riots broke out.

In recent years, police brutality has often flared at global summits where protesters have sought to challenge the legitimacy of various institutions of economic globalization such as the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, the G8, and international trade regimes such as the NAFTA and the FTAA. Crowd control efforts at these events are often characterized by the use of "less-than-lethal" means of force, such as CS gas, plastic bullets, Tasers, and police dogs.

Numerous human rights observers have raised concerns about increased police brutality in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. An extensive report prepared for the United Nations Human Rights Committee tabled in 2006 states that in the Estados Unidos, the "War on Terror" has "created a generalized climate of impunity for law enforcement officers, and contributed to the erosion of what few accountability mechanisms exist for civilian control over law enforcement agencies. As a result, police brutality and abuse persist unabated and undeterred across the country."[9]


An extensive U.S. Department of Justice report on police use of force released in 2001 indicates that in 1999, "approximately 422,000 people 16 years old and older were estimated to have had contact with police in which force or the threat of force was used."[10] Another Department of Justice report issued in 2006 shows that out of 26,556 citizen complaints about excessive use of police force among large U.S. agencies (representing 5% of agencies and 59% of officers) in 2002, about 2000 were sustained.[11]

However, other studies have shown that most police brutality goes unreported. In 1982, the federal government funded a "Police Services Study" in which over 12,000 randomly selected citizens were interviewed in three metropolitan areas. The study found that 13 percent of those surveyed had been victims of police brutality the previous year. Yet only 30 percent of those who acknowledged such brutality filed formal complaints.[12] A 1998 Human Rights Watch report stated that in all 14 precincts which it examined, the process of filing a complaint was "unnecessarily difficult and often intimidating."[13]

Police brutality is often associated with the phenomenon of racial profiling. Differences in race, religión, politics, and socioeconomic status between police and the citizenry can contribute to the creation of a relationship in which some police officers may view the population (or a particular subset thereof) as generally deserving punishment while these portions of the population view the police as oppressors. In addition, there is a perception that victims of police brutality often belong to relatively powerless groups, such as minorities, the young, and the poor.[14]

Recent Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports confirm that prison guard brutality is especially rife within the U.S. A 2006 Human Rights Watch watch report entitled "Cruel and Degrading: The Use of Dogs for Cell Extractions in U.S. Prisons" revealed that five state prison systems permit the use of aggressive, unmuzzled dogs to terrify and even attack prisoners as part of cell removal procedures.[15]

The Amnesty International 2007 report on human rights also documents widespread police misconduct in many other countries.[1]

Posibles causas

In dealing largely with disorderly elements of the society, some people working in law enforcement may gradually develop an attitude or sense of authority over society, particularly under traditional reaction-based policing models; in some cases the police believe that they are above the law.[16]

However the "bad apple paradigm" is considered to be often used as an "easy way out". A broad RCMP-commissioned report on the causes of misconduct in policing calls it "a simplistic explanation that permits the organization and senior management to blame corruption on individuals and individual faults – behavioural, psychological, background factors, and so on, rather than addressing systemic factors."[17] The report goes on to discuss the systemic factors, which include

  • pressures to conform to certain aspects of "police culture", such as the Blue Code of Silence which can "sustain an oppositional criminal subculture protecting the interests of police who violate the law"[18] and a "'we-they' perspective in which outsiders are viewed with suspicion or distrust"[17]
  • command and control structures with a rigid hierarchical foundation ("results indicate that the more rigid the hierarchy, the lower the scores on a measure of ethical decision-making" concludes one study reviewed in the report);[19] and
  • deficiencies in internal accountability mechanisms (including internal investigation processes).[17]

Some members of the public may in fact perceive the use of force by police as excessive even when the force used is not only reasonable, but is also appropriate under the circumstances. Police use of force is kept in check in many jurisdictions by the issuance of a use of force continuum.[20] A use of force continuum sets levels of force considered appropriate in direct response to a subject's behavior. This power is granted by the civil government, with limits set out in statutory law as well as common law.


In the Estados Unidos, investigation of cases of police brutality has often been left to internal police commissions and/or district attorneys (DAs). Internal police commissions have often been criticized for a lack of accountability and for bias favoring officers, as they frequently declare upon review that the officer(s) acted within the department's rules, or according to their training. For instance, a study focusing on the Chicago Police Department which was conducted in April 2007 found that out of more than 10,000 complaints of police abuse that were filed between 2002 and 2004, only 19 resulted in meaningful disciplinary action. The study charges that the police department’s oversight body allows officers with "criminal tendencies to operate with impunity," and argues that the Chicago Police Department should not be allowed to police itself.[21]

The ability of district attorneys to investigate police brutality has also been called into question, as DAs depend on help from police departments to bring cases to trial. It was only in the 1990s that serious efforts began to be made to transcend the difficulties of dealing with systemic patterns of misconduct in police departments.

Beyond police departments and DAs, other mechanisms of government oversight have gradually evolved. The Rodney King case triggered the creation of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, informally known as the Christopher Commission, in 1991. The commission, mandated to investigate the practices of the LAPD, uncovered disturbing patterns of misconduct and abuse, but the reforms it recommended were put on hold. Meanwhile, media reports revealed a frustration in dealing with systemic abuse in other jurisdictions as well, such as New York and Pittsburgh. Selwyn Raab of the New York Times wrote about how the "Blue Code of Silence among police officers helped to conceal even the most outrageous examples of misconduct."[22]

It was within this climate that the police misconduct provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 was created, authorizing the Attorney General to "file lawsuits seeking court orders to reform police departments engaging in a pattern or practice of violating citizens' federal rights."[23] As of January 31 2003, the Department of Justice has used this provision to negotiate reforms in eleven jurisdictions across the U.S. (Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Steubenville Police Department, New Jersey State Police, Los Angeles Police Department, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, Highland Park Police Department, Cincinnati Police Department, Columbus Police Department, Buffalo Police Department, Mount Prospect Police Department, and the Montgomery County, Maryland Police Department).[24]

In the United Kingdom, an independent organization known as the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigates reports of police misconduct. They automatically investigate any deaths caused by, or thought to be caused by, police action.


Independent oversight

Various community groups have criticized police brutality. These groups often stress the need for oversight by independent citizen review boards and other methods of ensuring accountability for police action.

Copwatch is a U.S.-based network of organizations that actively monitors and videotapes the police to prevent police brutality. Umbrella organizations and justice committees (often named after a deceased individual or those victimized by police violence) usually engage in a solidarity of those affected. Amnesty International is another organization active in the issue of police brutality.

Tools used by these groups include video recordings, which are sometimes broadcast using websites such as YouTube.[25]

Legislation protecting against police brutality


  • Section Seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - protects an individual's autonomy and legal rights and guarantees due process
  • Section Eight of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - protects against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • Section Nine of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - against arbitrary detainment and imprisonment. The provision is invoked in the criminal law context generally where a police officer who stops, detains, arrests or otherwise restrains a suspect without reasonable grounds.
  • Section Ten of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - specifies rights upon arrest or detention, including the rights to consult a lawyer and the right to habeas corpus.

United States

  • Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution - protects against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution - includes the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses
  • Civil Rights Act of 1871 - this has evolved into a key U.S. law in brutality cases (see: "A guide to civil rights liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983" for a detailed analysis of the section which is now of central relevance in excessive force lawsuits)
  • Federal Tort Claims Act - key U.S. law in brutality cases (particularly those which hinge upon negligence claims)

Notable cases of police brutality

See: List of cases of police brutality

Véase también

  • Police misconduct
  • Police riot
  • Prisoner abuse
  • State terrorism
  • Christopher Commission
  • Copwatch
  • Racism
  • International Day Against Police Brutality (March 15)
  • Civil rights
  • Civil liberties


  1. a b «Amnesty International Report 2007». Amnesty International (2007).
  2. Johnson, Marilynn S. (2004). Johnson (ed.). Street Justice: A History of Police Violence in New York City. Beacon Press, pp. 365. ISBN 0-8070-5023-7.
  3. «Wicker shambles». Time Magazine (1931-02-02). Consultado el 2007-09-05.
  4. University Publications of America (1997-12). «Records of the Wickersham Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement». LexisNexis. Consultado el 2007-09-05.
  5. United States Supreme Court (1936-02-17). «BROWN et al. v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI.». Consultado el 2007-09-05.
  6. Walker, Daniel (1968). Johnson (ed.). Rights in Conflict: The violent confrontation of demonstrators and police in the parks and streets of Chicago during the week of the Democratic National Convention of 1968. A report submitted by Daniel Walker, director of the Chicago Study Team, to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence.. Braceland Brothers, pp. 233.
  7. Joseph D. McNamara. «Has the Drug War Created an Officer Liars' Club?», Los Angeles Times, 1996-02-11. Consultado el 2007-09-06.
  8. Joel Miller. «Kill Zone»,, 2004-07-17. Consultado el 2007-09-06.
  9. «In the Shadows of the War on Terror: Persisitent Police Brutality and Abuse in the United States» (PDF fecha= 2006-06). United Nations Committee on Human Rights. Consultado el 2007-09-11.
  10. «Contacts between Police and the Public: Findings from the 1999 National Survey». Bureau of Justice Statistics (2001-03-21).
  11. Matthew Hickman (2006-06-26). «Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force». Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  12. «Fighting Police Abuse: A Community Action Manual». American Civil Liberties Union (1997-12-1).
  13. «Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States». Human Rights Watch (June, 1998).
  14. Powers, Mary D. (1995). «Civilian Oversight Is Necessary to Prevent Police Brutality», Winters, Paul A. (ed.). Policing the Police. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, pp. 56–60. ISBN 1-56510-262-2.
  15. «Cruel and Degrading: The Use of Dogs for Cell Extractions in U.S. Prisons». Human Rights Watch (2006).
  16. Skolnick, Jerome H.; Fyfe, James D. (1995). «Community-Oriented Policing Would Prevent Police Brutality», Winters, Paul A. (ed.). Policing the Police. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, pp. 45–55. ISBN 1-56510-262-2.
  17. a b c Loree, Don (2006). «Corruption in Policing: Causes and Consequences; A Review of the Literature» (PDF). Research and Evaluation Community, Contract and Aboriginal Policing Services Directorate. Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Consultado el 2007-09-01.
  18. Skolnick, Jerome H. (2002). «Corruption and the Blue Code of Silence» Police Practice and Research. Vol. 3(1). p. 7.
  19. Owens, Katherine M. B.; Jeffrey Pfeifer (2002). «Police Leadership and Ethics: Training and Police Recommendations» The Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services. Vol. 1(2). pp. 7.
  20. Stetser, Merle (2001). The Use of Force in Police Control of Violence: Incidents Resulting in Assaults on Officers. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing L.L.C.. ISBN 1-931202-08-7.
  21. Ryan Gallagher. «Study: Police abuse goes unpunished», Medill School, Northwestern University, Chicago, 2007-04-04. Consultado el 2007-09-04.
  22. Selwyn Raab. «The Dark Blue Code of Silence», New York Times, 1993-5-2. Consultado el 2007-08-27.
  23. Civil Rights Division (2007-08-16). «Conduct of Law Enforcement Agencies». U.S. Department of Justice. Consultado el 2007-08-27.
  24. Civil Rights Division (2003-01-1). «Department of Justice Police Misconduct Pattern or Practice Program». U.S. Department of Justice. Consultado el 2007-08-27.
  25. Veiga, Alex. « prompts police beating probe», Associated Press, November 11, 2006. Consultado el 2006-11-12.

Enlaces externos

Obtenido de "Brutalidad policial"

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