每日英語跟讀 Ep.883: Thousands of Complaints Do Little to Change Police Ways
In nearly two decades with the Minneapolis Police Department, Derek Chauvin faced at least 17 misconduct complaints, none of which derailed his career.
Over the years, civilian review boards came and went, and a federal review recommended that the troubled department improve its system for flagging problematic officers.
All the while, Chauvin tussled with a man before firing two shots, critically wounding him. He was admonished for using derogatory language and a demeaning tone with the public. He was named in a brutality lawsuit. But he received no discipline other than two letters of reprimand.
It was not until Chauvin, 44, was seen in a video with his left knee pinned to the neck of a black man, prone for nearly nine minutes and pleading for relief, that the officer, who is white, was suspended, fired and then charged with murder.
His case is not unusual. Critics say the department, despite its long history of accusations of abuse, never fully implemented federal recommendations to overhaul the way in which it tracks complaints and punishes officers—with just a handful over the years facing termination or severe punishment.
Even as outrage has mounted over deaths at the hands of the police, it remains notoriously difficult in the United States to hold officers accountable, in part because of the political clout of police unions, the reluctance of investigators, prosecutors and juries to second-guess an officer's split-second decision and the wide latitude the law gives police officers to use force.
Police departments themselves have often resisted civilian review or dragged their feet when it comes to overhauling officer disciplinary practices. And even change-oriented police chiefs in cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia—which over the last few years have been the sites of high-profile deaths of black men by white officers—have struggled to punish or remove bad actors.
Across the country, civilian review boards—generally composed of members of the public—have been notoriously weak. They gather accounts, but cannot enforce any recommendations.
In 2012, the civilian board in Minneapolis was replaced by an agency called the Office of Police Conduct Review. Since then, more than 2,600 misconduct complaints have been filed by members of the public, but only 12 have resulted in an officer being disciplined. The most severe censure has been a 40-hour suspension.