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44 Hastings L.J. 753 (1992-1993)
The Endless Cycle of Abuse: Why 42 U.S.C. 1983 Is Ineffective in Deterring Police Brutality

handle is hein.journals/hastlj44 and id is 781 raw text is: The Endless Cycle of Abuse: Why 42
U.S.C. § 1983 Is Ineffective in
Deterring Police Brutality
I. Introduction
When a police officer uses excessive force against an individual, that
individual can sue the officer for violating her civil rights under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983.1 Section 1983 actions seek damages or injunctions against abu-
sive police techniques.2 Years after Congress enacted section 1983,3 at-
torneys, legislators and citizens are questioning the statute's effectiveness
as a legal tool for deterring police misconduct.
There are three major weaknesses to section 1983 suits. First, these
actions are difficult and expensive to pursue.4 Since most victims of mis-
* Member, Third Year Class; B.A. 1988, University of California, Berkeley. The au-
thor would like to thank the attorneys, legislative staff members, police officers and personnel,
journalists, and police practices specialists who so generously contributed their time and writ-
ten documents to assist the writing of this Note. Special thanks to John Crew, Robin Toma,
Alan Gordon, Frank Saunders, Irene Rapoza, Bert Terreri, Karol Heppe, Carol Watson, Sarge
Holtzman, A.J. Kutchins, Susan Rubenstein, and John Houston Scott for their valuable feed-
back and clarifications. Finally, many thanks to Peter Mallios, Tony Ratner, and Teresa Foss
for their continual support of this project.
1. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1988). Section 1983 reads:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or us-
age, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction
thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in
equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
AND LTGATION § 2.2 (2d ed. 1992) (detailing scope of federal civil rights acts).
3. Section 1983 originated in the Ku Klux Act of 1871, ch. 22, § 1, 17 Stat. 13 (1873).
One purpose of the Act was to afford a federal right in federal courts because, by reason of
prejudice, passion, neglect, intolerance or otherwise, state laws might not be enforced and the
... rights... guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment might be denied by the state agen-
cies. Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 180 (1961).
4. AVERY & RUDOVSKY, supra note 2, § 4.5, at 4-10; Irving Joyner, Litigating Police
Misconduct Claims in North Carolina, 19 N.C. CENT. L.J. 113, 143-44 (1991); see also infra
notes 19-20, 26-27 and accompanying text.


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