Damning US report fuels race furore

A damning US federal investigation into police brutality in Cleveland has added further fuel to the national controversy raging over a spate of police killings of black suspects.

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The finding announced by US Attorney-General Eric Holder that police in the Ohio city routinely employ “excessive force” came after a night of angry demonstrations in New York.

The New York protests were triggered by a local grand jury’s decision not to indict a white officer who choked to death an unarmed black father-of-six during his arrest for selling illegal cigarettes.

The case is the latest in a series of racially-charged incidents, including the shooting of a 12-year-old in Cleveland and a decision not to prosecute a Missouri officer who killed an unarmed black teenager.

The federal investigation into policing in Cleveland began 18 months ago and not specifically about the killing on November 22 of black 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a city playground by police.

Officers responded to a report that a youth was brandishing a gun, but Rice was later found to be carrying a toy, and a video of the incident show police opened fire within seconds of their arrival.

“We have determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland Division of Police engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force,” Holder said.

He blamed this on “systemic deficiencies, including insufficient accountability, inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies and inadequate engagement with the community.”

New York, meanwhile, was braced for another night of protest.

Police arrested 83 people overnight after demonstrators took to the streets in fury at the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer over the July 17 death of Eric Garner.

A similar decision in Ferguson, Missouri last week sparked riots.

The St Louis suburb had been a hub of protest and racial tensions since unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead August 9 by a white police officer.