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Pattern of Post-Chase Police Abuse Condemned

Videotape of Philadelphia fits nationwide pattern

Police officers need special training and better supervision to ensure they do not beat or abuse suspects after chases.

In the latest such incident, police officers in Philadelphia are being accused of beating a suspect, Thomas Jones, after a high-speed car chase. A videotape of the beating suggests that the police used excessive force in subduing Jones.

"When police officers are chasing after suspects at high speeds, it can get their adrenaline running," said Allyson Collins, an expert on U.S. police abuse at Human Rights Watch. "But that doesn't excuse abusive behavior. The police need special training to know how to check themselves after a chase."

Collins said that post-chase incidents of brutality are too common. The 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles occurred after a car chase. In 1995, a police officer in Boston who was mistaken for a suspect was chased, and then beaten and abandoned at the scene. In 1996, police pursued undocumented Mexican migrants riding in a truck in Riverside County, California, and then beat some of the truck's occupants -- an incident that was also captured on videotape.

Other post-chase cases in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., are documented in the July 1998 Human Rights Watch report on police abuse, Shielded from Justice.

Several officers in the Philadelphia videotape were clearly attempting to stop other officers from hitting and kicking Jones. Those officers deserve recognition for behaving in a professional manner, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that police used a chokehold to take Jones to a transport vehicle after he was apprehended, although chokeholds are not permitted under Philadelphia police department rules.

Human Rights Watch said that any officers found responsible for using excessive force should be disciplined appropriately, or prosecuted criminally if their conduct violated the law. It also urged the U.S. Justice Department, which has launched its own investigation into the incident, to step in and prosecute any officers who may have violated federal civil rights statutes.

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