US rights group condemns police violence in California

A US civil rights group has condemned police in the state of California for excessive use of force and the high number of deaths involving officers, particularly among ethnic minorities.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a report on Monday that the level of lethal violence directed at Latinos and blacks in the cities of Anaheim and Bakersfield is out of proportion with the level of crime.

The ACLU said Anaheim “has a rate of officer-involved deaths far exceeding law enforcement departments in most cities of similar and larger size.”

In 2014, Anaheim was ranked second safest from violent crime of the 50 largest cities in the United States, according to FBI statistics. Yet the same figures rank the city ninth in 2015 for the number of officer-involved deaths during arrests.

“Last year alone, the rate of police-involved deaths per million residents in Anaheim outdistanced that of Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston and most other large cities,” the report states.

The ACLU published a report earlier this month denouncing “a disturbing pattern of shootings, beatings and canine attacks” by police and sheriff’s deputies, especially targeting unarmed suspects, in Bakersfield and across Kern County.

Acting Anaheim police chief Julian Harvey said in a statement to AFP that “few public safety agencies” had initiated as much internal review in recent years and brought about as much positive change as his department.

“Our major incident review process is now a model for California. We have brought our officers closer to the neighborhoods they serve and created new ways for the community to share their concerns with us,” he added.

He accused the ACLU of “mis-statements designed for maximum impact rather than honestly portraying our city.”

The ACLU’s director of police practices for California, Peter Bibring, warned of a “nationwide problem” with the use of excessive force which was particularly acute in the America’s most populous state in part because of a culture of secrecy surrounding investigations of officer misconduct.

US police have been under harsh criticism over fatal shootings of and brutality against African Americans in recent years.

Fatal police shootings and other forms of violence against people of color have sparked massive protests across the US in recent years.

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