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Justice Department Upping Efforts to Police the Police

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is ramping up civil rights enforcement against local police nationwide, opening a number of investigations to determine whether officers are guilty of brutality or discrimination against Hispanics and other minorities.

In recent months, the Justice Department has begun inquiries into major city police departments such as Portland, Ore., where officers shot several people who had mental health issues, and Seattle, where police were accused of gunning down a homeless Native American woodcarver. The department issued a scathing report earlier this month accusing Puerto Rico police of a “staggering level of crime and corruption.’’

All told, Justice’s Civil Rights Division is conducting 17 probes of police and sheriff departments — the largest number in its 54-year history. The investigations are civil, meaning they will not lead to criminal charges, but can result in court-enforced reforms.

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