Protesters across the country are raging against a system they say fails to hold violent and abusive police accountable for their actions, especially when that behavior victimizes African Americans. Criminology scholar Jill McCorkel says that anger reflects a violent reality: Decades of research on police shootings reveal that officers with a history of shooting civilians are much more likely to do so in the future compared to other officers. A similar pattern holds for misconduct complaints. And the officers involved in both the deaths of African Americans George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville share a history of complaints by citizens of brutality or misconduct.

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Naomi Schalit

Senior Editor, Politics + Society

Police work to keep demonstrators back during a protest in Lafayette Square Park on May 30, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Police officers accused of brutal violence often have a history of complaints by citizens

Jill McCorkel, Villanova University

Many law enforcement agencies fail to adequately investigate misconduct allegations and rarely sustain citizen complaints. Disciplinary sanctions are few and reserved for the most egregious cases.

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