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Attorney General Kennedy Gets Tough on Police Brutality

Mar. 20, 1962 - Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy asked Congress today to toughen Federal statutes against police brutality. He proposed adding to existing civil rights laws a section aimed at misconduct by state and local officers. It would prohibit beatings or attempted beatings for extorting a confession or inflicting “summary punishment.” The Attorney General also asked for stiffer penalties than the present maximum of a $1,000 fine and a year in jail for an official who violated a citizen’s civil rights. If the victim is injured by police brutality, Mr. Kennedy proposed, the convicted official would face a $5,000 fine and five years in prison. He suggested a life sentence as the maximum penalty if a victim died. Mr. Kennedy’s move on police brutality follows a Civil Rights Commission report on the subject last November. The commission found that police lawlessness and brutality remained “a serious problem throughout the United States.” It said that “Negroes feel the brunt of official brutality” but that whites are also affected.

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