Almost every day, the headlines feature another case of a citizen being killed by the police. These cases are occurring all over the country – and protests against the police are increasing, such as against Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore and the killing of Mario Woods in San Francisco. The fear of terrorism is only upping the numbers. It’s an issue that Paul Brakke, author of American Justice?, has been examining, in considering what both the citizens and police can do to deal with this problem.

Unfortunately, as Brakke has discovered, the headline cases are only the tip of the iceberg – and the iceberg is growing. The numbers are shocking. In the last decade, about 5000 citizens were killed by the police – an even higher number than the 4489 soldiers killed in the Iraq war. On the average, about 500 citizens are killed each year by the police, and disproportionately they are individuals of color, which has contributed to the rising hostility to the police in the inner city and among African-Americans. Not all of those killed are necessarily innocent, but in many cases, the police could arrest them, and the defendants could be tried and convicted in a court of law, rather than summarily killed.

The result has been a growing divide between the police and people, which has only been made worse in some communities, such as Oakland and San Francisco, by the discovery of racist email exchanges between some police in the department.

What is the solution to reduce the killings and the citizen-police divide? In his book American Justice? and in further research on the problem, Brakke has come up with a number of possible solutions. For example, he suggests developing further national training guidelines and policies for police departments nationwide, including guidelines for when to safely reduce the use of force. These should, he says, “improve police operations, increase compliance, and reduce citizen complaints against the police.”

Brakke also suggests including some members of the local board of supervisors on local citizen review boards in order to increase community-wide participation and facilitate more citizen and police cooperation. Still another suggestion is to remove any restrictions on the public in filming or recording the police when they are on duty, which will provide more transparency. The Department of Justice should also provide its civil rights division with more attorneys so it can pursue more cases, while the FBI should perform its own independent investigations of police misconduct, rather than rely on information provided by the police. These developments will help to break down citizen-police barriers and reduce the confrontations or attempts to flee from the police, which sometimes lead to unnecessary killings.

In his book, Brakke also takes on other issues in the criminal justice system, such as misconduct by overzealous prosecutors and misbehavior by judges who show bias or other problems in their rulings. His ultimate goal is toget a national dialogue going about how to best reform the criminal justice system. As Brakke states: “We need to get the whole community involved, and in the long run this will help everyday citizens, given the cost savings in corrections and other divisions of the criminal justice system.” To this end, he is starting a regular blog series on his website to point up different problems in the criminal justice system and what to do to fix them. Look forward to further blogs on this subject after the recent horrific events in Minnesota, Baton Rouge and Dallas.

The book is available through Amazon

Copies of the book are also available in PDF format to members of the press.

For more information, please contact:

TouchPoint Press at for multiple copies
Paul Brakke at for questions about his experiences with the system.
Paul Brakke at or Gini Graham Scott at for questions about the system or the book’s relationship to current events