Steve Russell: DOJ in no position to lecture local law enforcement

Protesters in New York City. Photo by Michael Skolnik / Twitter

Judge and professor Steve Russell explores common myths in criminal justice in Indian Country and the United States.
Indians who still have reservation lands in non-PL-280 states have vast experience with law enforcement on the felony level by federal officers, and most of those Indians scratch their heads when confronted with the idea that federal officers are superior in their ability to police official violence. Indians, of course, fall into the category of non-white persons who lack gratitude for the risks police take on our behalf.

I taught future police officers for 15 years and most of them came to the study of criminal justice needing to be disabused of the claim that policing is a terribly dangerous profession. In workplace deaths, Bureau of Labor Statistics records show that policing seldom cracks the top five, even adjusting for the number of officers or the amount of time they work compared to others.

There is also reason to pause over the claim that federal officers investigate themselves better than state officers investigate themselves. Attorney General Eric Holder is not always a black white knight, riding to the rescue of police violence victims.

According to the reluctantly released records, FBI agents used their firearms to effect 150 times between 1993 and 2011, producing 70 homicides and 80 non-fatal gunshot wounds. The Times did not report what proportion of the shootings happened on Indian reservations but, on the point of federal officers as incorruptible and untouchable, the FBI found 150 of 150 shootings by FBI agents to be “good shoots.”

Either the FBI legend extends to infallibility or Attorney General Eric Holder is in no position to lecture state prosecutors about their reluctance to bring their own officers to book.

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Steve Russell: Criminal Justice Mythology (Indian Country Today 12/5)

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