47 Buff. L. Rev. 1275 (1999)
Patterns of Injustice: Police Brutality in the Courts

handle is hein.journals/buflr47 and id is 1283 raw text is: Patterns of Injustice:

Police Brutality in the Courts
Legal consequences often hinge on whether events or
incidents   are   categorized   as   isolated   or  connected,
individual or systemic, anecdotal or part of a larger pattern.
Courts tend to portray incidents of police brutality as
anecdotal, fragmented, and isolated rather than as part of a
systemic,    institutional   pattern.    Though      numerous
doctrines-including     federalism, separation     of powers,
causation, deference, discretion, and burden of proof-
provide partial explanations for the judicial fragmentation
of police misconduct, it seems clear that courts cannot or do
not choose to see systemic patterns for reasons that
transcend doctrinal explanations. This article explores
those reasons, which, ultimately, are relevant not only to
police brutality, but to the larger judicial tendency to
anecdotalize systemic government misconduct.
It is inevitable that courts must decide which details,
events, and persona are relevant to a particular story of
police conduct. Every narrative highlights some details, and
downplays or discards others that seem to threaten its
tProfessor, DePaul University College of Law. I am grateful to Albert Alschuler,
Erwin Chemerinsky, Paul Chevigny, John Conroy, Barry Friedman, Tom
Geraghty, Jeffrie Murphy, Judith Resnik, Sharon Rush, Carol Sanger, Austin
Sarat, Stephen Siegel, David Sklansky, Welsh White, and George Wright for
their comments on drafts of this paper. I also received very helpful comments at
faculty workshops at the Cornell, University of Colorado and DePaul Law
Schools, at the 1998 meeting of the Working Group on Law, Culture and the
Humanities at Georgetown Law Center, and at the 1998 Annual Meeting of the
Law and Society Association in Aspen, Colorado. Thanks are also due to
Michael Carter, Patty Galvan, Tom McGuire, Rebecca Morse, and Manuel Rupe
for their excellent research assistance, and the DePaul Law School Faculty
Research Fund for its support.


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