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Shadow Vigilantes: How Distrust in the Justice System Breeds a New Kind of Lawlessness

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A form of subtle vigilantism threatens to undermine the justice system and is eroding community trust in law enforcement. A pervasive and destructive problem is afflicting our current justice system, eroding community confidence in law enforcement. "Shadow vigilantism" is a vicious cycle in which ordinary people, as well as criminal justice officials, are so fed up with the A form of subtle vigilantism threatens to undermine the justice system and is eroding community trust in law enforcement. A pervasive and destructive problem is afflicting our current justice system, eroding community confidence in law enforcement. "Shadow vigilantism" is a vicious cycle in which ordinary people, as well as criminal justice officials, are so fed up with the system's failures that they distort and subvert the system to force it to do the justice that it seems reluctant to do on its own. The effects of this lack of trust are pervasive and pernicious: citizens refuse to report a crime or help investigators; jurors refuse to indict or convict; and officials manipulate a system that is perceived to be unreliable. This downward spiral eventually undermines the moral authority of law enforcement and creates widening rifts in the community. This book examines many examples of how the community has responded when the justice system is perceived to fail, including the infamous murder of Emmett Till, which became a cause that spurred on the NAACP and the civil rights movement; the Lavender Panthers, which formed in response to gay bashing during the 1980s; the Crown Heights Maccabees, a neighborhood watch group that successfully reduced neighborhood crime when the police failed to do so; the Animal Liberation Front, which struck back at institutions for perceived abuses to animals; Operation Perverted Justice, an organization that used online chat rooms to out pedophiles by publicizing their personal information; and many others. Such examples highlight the importance of upholding a justice system that works to provide justice for all and is not perceived to condone legal technicalities that overturn just punishment, judicial rules that suppress evidence and let serious offenders go, and other actions that undermine public trust in the system.


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A form of subtle vigilantism threatens to undermine the justice system and is eroding community trust in law enforcement. A pervasive and destructive problem is afflicting our current justice system, eroding community confidence in law enforcement. "Shadow vigilantism" is a vicious cycle in which ordinary people, as well as criminal justice officials, are so fed up with the A form of subtle vigilantism threatens to undermine the justice system and is eroding community trust in law enforcement. A pervasive and destructive problem is afflicting our current justice system, eroding community confidence in law enforcement. "Shadow vigilantism" is a vicious cycle in which ordinary people, as well as criminal justice officials, are so fed up with the system's failures that they distort and subvert the system to force it to do the justice that it seems reluctant to do on its own. The effects of this lack of trust are pervasive and pernicious: citizens refuse to report a crime or help investigators; jurors refuse to indict or convict; and officials manipulate a system that is perceived to be unreliable. This downward spiral eventually undermines the moral authority of law enforcement and creates widening rifts in the community. This book examines many examples of how the community has responded when the justice system is perceived to fail, including the infamous murder of Emmett Till, which became a cause that spurred on the NAACP and the civil rights movement; the Lavender Panthers, which formed in response to gay bashing during the 1980s; the Crown Heights Maccabees, a neighborhood watch group that successfully reduced neighborhood crime when the police failed to do so; the Animal Liberation Front, which struck back at institutions for perceived abuses to animals; Operation Perverted Justice, an organization that used online chat rooms to out pedophiles by publicizing their personal information; and many others. Such examples highlight the importance of upholding a justice system that works to provide justice for all and is not perceived to condone legal technicalities that overturn just punishment, judicial rules that suppress evidence and let serious offenders go, and other actions that undermine public trust in the system.

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