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US Attorney will hold police officers accountable for excessive force

Posted 17 December 2014 at 12:00 am

Editor:

In recent reporting of incidents from around the country, some have questioned whether police are held accountable when they break the law, particularly in the case of excessive force.

As a federal prosecutor for over 25 years, I can assure the public that the vast majority of law enforcement officers conduct themselves according to the highest ideals of their noble profession. With thousands of daily contacts between officers and citizens, incidents of excessive force are rare. Yet, on those occasions when officers have used illegal and excessive force, this Office has held them accountable and pursued criminal prosecution. Incidents need not result in death before our Office engages.

Since becoming U.S. Attorney, six law enforcement officers, based in suburban, county and city police departments, have been convicted in our Federal Court for violating civil rights through the use of excessive force.

The conduct included two instances where the officers were off-duty, but relied upon the presence of on-duty police to either choke or punch their victims. Moreover, during the time that I have worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, this Office has consistently been aggressive in prosecuting officers who abuse their positions in fact, one former Buffalo Police Officer prosecuted in 2005 continues to serve his sentence of 45 years-and-a-day for violating the constitutional rights of residents of the City of Buffalo.

These cases were reported to us by community members and the leadership of the police agency. Our prosecutions not only result in convictions, they also cost officers their jobs.

I am truly proud to work with the fine men and women who carry a badge and work hard to keep us safe. The public should also know that when they report illegal activity of any kind, including by police, this Office and its law enforcement partners will work just as hard to ensure equal justice under law and to hold accountable anyone who cross the line.

By removing rogue officers who taint the uniform they wear, such prosecutions restore public confidence in those sworn to protect them and to defend the Constitution and the people of this great country.

William J. Hochul, Jr.
Mr. Hochul is the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York