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The rise in police violence

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Police brutality cases on rise since 9/11

By Kevin Johnson
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON Federal prosecutors are targeting a rising number of law enforcement officers for alleged brutality, Justice Department statistics show. The heightened prosecutions come as the nation's largest police union fears that agencies are dropping standards to fill thousands of vacancies and "scrimping" on training.

Cases in which police, prison guards and other law enforcement authorities have used excessive force or other tactics to violate victims' civil rights have increased 25% (281 vs. 224) from fiscal years 2001 to 2007 over the previous seven years, the department says.

During the same period, the department says it won 53% more convictions (391 vs. 256). Some cases result in multiple convictions.

Federal records show the vast majority of police brutality cases referred by investigators are not prosecuted.

University of Toledo law professor David Harris, who analyzes police conduct issues, says it will take time to determine whether the cases represent a sustained period of more aggressive prosecutions or the beginnings of a surge in misconduct. 

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