University of Pittsburgh

New York Times Calls On Expertise from Pitt Law Professor David A. Harris On Police Brutality Turmoil In Ferguson, MO

Publish Date/Time: 
August 14, 2014


Pitt Law Professor David A. Harris, a legal expert in police misconduct and author of Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science was quoted extensively in a New York Times cover story on the deteriorating situation in Ferguson, Missouri. On Saturday an unarmed 18-year-old black man, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a police officer in the St. Louis suburb. In the days since, demonstrations and protestors have clashed with a militarized police force armed with rubber bullets, tear gas, high-powered assault rifles and armored trucks.

The New York Times story penned by Julie Bosman and Erik Eckholm details arrests and detainments of journalists reporting on the crisis and the hacker collective known as Anonymous which has broken into municipal government servers to retrieve and disseminate information on the police and city officials in a practice known as “doxing.”

“Police departments do not welcome disclosure or the input of outsiders,” Harris said in the story. “So when you have a problem like this, it’s hardly surprising to see that they are very reluctant to give out information.”

In the story Harris said that while it was understandable that police officials would try to protect their officers from threats and unfair accusations, silence also had its risks. “This case is not being tried yet, but the narrative is being forged in the public arena. When that goes on, information is put out selectively and withheld selectively.”

“There is real danger in that,” he said, “because ultimately law enforcement depends on the trust of the people they serve.”

Read the New York Times story Anonymity in Police Shooting Fuels Anger in Missouri.

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