In 1991, an African-American man named Rodney King was stopped by four Los Angeles police officers and beaten mercilessly. Luckily for him, the beating was captured on a home video camera and subsequently played for the entire world to see his non-violent response to these police officers. Would he have been so seriously beaten if he had been White? Was he discriminated against by the Los Angeles police department and if so, was it a systematic policy or simply widespread discrimination of Blacks by police officers there? These were interesting questions that were put to the test by taking the case to the jury. The four officers were charged and prosecuted under the state law in a county that had mostly White people in the jury pool. They found the officers not guilty and riots broke out in downtown Los Angeles. Civil rights attorneys decided to take the case to Federal Court and they filed complaints against the police officers using the theory that they violated the constitutional rights of Rodney King by using uncalled for violence during their arrest. Although widely criticized for violating the police officer’s rights against ‘double jeopardy’ or being tried twice for the same act, two of the officers were found guilty by a jury more racially reflective of the city of Los Angeles.
KeywordsPolice Officer Sexual Harassment Racial Discrimination Federal Court Punitive Damage
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