NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Sending Cops To Jail

July 29, 1999

The number of law enforcement officers convicted and placed behind bars is small in proportion to the total number of police on duty nationally. But their numbers are growing fast, according to a USA Today analysis.

  • Out of the 600,000 officers on duty in America's cities and towns, 655 were serving time in federal prison as of last month.
  • That represents a 500 percent jump since 1994, when only 107 were incarcerated.
  • In 1996, only 83 officers were convicted -- increasing to 149 in 1997, then to 246 last year.

In the first months of her tenure in 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno reportedly made law enforcement corruption a priority. The nation's 94 local U.S. attorneys were encouraged to prosecute, sometimes in cases where local authorities were reluctant or slow to move. As a result, a record 756 former law enforcement officers have been convicted on federal corruption, brutality and other charges during Reno's watch.

While federal agents, state and federal prison guards and local elected officials were all included in the crackdown, big-city police forces were hit especially hard.

Source: Richard Willing and Kevin Johnson, "More Law Enforcers Becoming Lawbreakers," USA Today, July 29, 1999.


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