Ritchie was a primary author of In the Shadows of the War on Terror: Persistent Police Brutality and Abuse in the United States, a “shadow report” submitted in 2007 on behalf of over 100 national and local organizations and individuals to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and has testified before all three bodies.
Since the advent of the first state-sponsored police forces in the U.S. – slave patrols – racialized policing has been a feature of the American landscape. Indeed, racial profiling and police brutality have their roots in enforcement of Slave Codes, and later Black Codes and Jim Crow segregation laws. We Charge Genocide, a petition submitted to the UN by the Civil Rights Congress in 1951, documented thousands of incidents of police violence against African Americans alone. Police brutality against Native Americans has also been a constant of colonial culture in the U.S. Official studies, as well as those of domestic and international civil and human rights organizations, have consistently found that people and communities of color are disproportionately subjected to human rights violations at the hands of law enforcement officers, ranging from pervasive verbal abuse and harassment, racial profiling, routine stops and frisks based solely on race or gender to excessive force, unjustified shootings, and torture.
This report addresses the U.S. government’s failure to comply with its obligations under the Convention to prevent and punish acts of excessive force, rape, sexual abuse, and racial profiling committed by law enforcement officers against people of color. While the U.S. government references various law enforcement training programs in its report, it is clear that that these are ineffective in addressing and deterring violations of the Convention by law enforcement officers. This report will also examine the failure of existing legislative and judicial remedies cited by the U.S. as evidence of its compliance with the Convention to afford victims of racially discriminatory law enforcement practices vindication of their human rights, financial compensation, or systemic change. It concludes by offering concrete recommendations to bring the U.S. into compliance with the Convention.