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Alleged Brutality Incident in New Hampshire Puts Spotlight on Policing

  • Wayne Lee

This aerial image made from a helicopter video provided by WHDH shows several officers allegedly pummeling Richard Simone, who had exited his vehicle after a high-speed police pursuit, in Nashua, New Hampshire, May 11, 2016.

This aerial image made from a helicopter video provided by WHDH shows several officers allegedly pummeling Richard Simone, who had exited his vehicle after a high-speed police pursuit, in Nashua, New Hampshire, May 11, 2016.

The New Hampshire state attorney general's office said Thursday that it would conduct a criminal investigation into a group of Massachusetts police officers who were videotaped Wednesday as they repeatedly beat a man following an hourlong high-speed chase across state lines.

The video shows at least two officers repeatedly hitting a man who had dropped to his knees after getting out of his vehicle.

The suspect, Richard Simone of Worcester, Massachusetts, faces charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, larceny and failure to stop for officers, according to Massachusetts State Police. It was not clear whether Simone was injured.

Proliferation of videos

Despite the proliferation of videos showing alleged and actual acts of police brutality, the rise or decline of these incidents in the U.S. is unknown.

"We do know there is more public attention to it and we know there is a significant problem because these incidents keep happening," said Samuel Walker, a policing expert at the University of Nebraska.

University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris said the lack of insight into police use of excessive force results from a lack of national reporting standards.

This aerial image made from a helicopter video provided by WHDH shows Richard Simone kneeling and putting his hands on the ground after a high-speed police pursuit in Nashua, New Hampshire, May 11, 2016.

This aerial image made from a helicopter video provided by WHDH shows Richard Simone kneeling and putting his hands on the ground after a high-speed police pursuit in Nashua, New Hampshire, May 11, 2016.

"We have very poor reporting in the United States as a whole on the use of force by police,” Harris said. “That's frankly deplorable."

While some local police departments compile and report information about their law enforcement activities to the federal government, submitting the information is voluntary.

'Data is essential'

Walker said "data is essential" to identifying patterns of police misconduct and fixing them. But he believes a more effective solution is "strengthening the level of supervision on the street."

When there are police chase incidents like Wednesday's in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, "officers lose their judgment and forget what their policies are," Walker said.

Training police sergeants to enforce local law enforcement policies "is the best training an officer is going to get," he added.

But implementing uniform national or state police standards, which exist in other countries such as Britain, also would strengthen policing on the local level, Walker said. "We have this very fragmented, decentralized system, no national standards on use of force."

Harris noted that the federal government does not have jurisdiction over state law enforcement agencies. But he said the federal government should make its funding to the states conditional to urge compliance with police reporting requirements.

"We have 18,000 police departments in the United States," he said. "It's a hodgepodge."

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