Young black men were killed at an alarming rate by the police last year.
It is time to stop accepting the myth that police brutality is a matter of public debate. The number of bullets fired by the police and the number of dead citizens – particularly young black men – no longer permits us that luxury.
Increasingly, the police are being recognized as aggressors rather than as protectors.
Grand juries conducting secret hearings in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York made controversial decisions not to bring charges against police officers who killed unarmed black men – Michael Brown and Eric Garner – sparking nationwide protests and the advent of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
The Guardian’s interactive database “The Counted” recorded a stunning 1138 people killed by law enforcement officers in the United States in 2015. That’s slightly more than 3 people per day.
It’s time to strike back at the police culture that has jettisoned “protect and serve” for the much more dangerous “suspect and control.”
Young black men killed by police at the highest rate
According to a year-end review published by The Guardian, “Young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers in 2015, according to the findings of a Guardian study that recorded a final tally of 1,134 deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers this year.”
The Guardian continues, reporting that “Despite making up only 2% of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths logged this year by an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police. Their rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher than for white men of the same age.”
“Paired with official government mortality data, this new finding indicates that about one in every 65 deaths of a young African American man in the US is a killing by police.”
Black people were killed by police at more than twice the rate of white people in 2015
According to The Guardian “Overall in 2015, black people were killed at twice the rate of white, Hispanic and native Americans. About 25% of the African Americans killed were unarmed, compared with 17% of white people.”
Conservatives try to spin the numbers
Conservative websites like AllenBWest.com attempt to spin those numbers, publishing misleading articles such as one entitled “Statistics for police violence show 70% of shootings are justified.”
Using an ill-conceived sleight of hand recitation of numbers, AllenBWest staff writer Ashley Edwardson attempts to marginalize the deaths of black civilians by cops in bad shootings. She begins by writing that: “Much of the public outcry about police use of deadly force began in August 2014 when a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, after a struggle in Ferguson, Mo. A grand jury declined to indict the officer.”
Continuing her farcical tale, she writes: “And as far as police targeting blacks? Of the people killed by police this year, almost half have been white, a quarter have been black and one-sixth have been Hispanic.”
Taken at face value, it might appear that Edwardson has a good point. However, when we look at the underlying demographics – the fact that whites encompass 72.41% of the total population and African-Americans 12.61% – those figures tell a different story.
According to The Guardian’s figures, whites have been killed by the police at the rate of 2.92 per million, while blacks are being slaughtered at the rate of 7.18 per million. That means your chances of being arbitrarily killed by cops is roughly 2 1/2 times higher if you are black than white.
As we noted above, even one unjustified death at the hands of cops is one too many. Sure mistakes happen, but the police are there to Protect and Serve; statistics will only improve if they are held accountable through transparent and accurate reporting and the application of appropriate oversight and accountability – be it administrative or through the courts (on a case-by-case basis).
President Obama was correct when he defended the #BlackLivesMatter movement to police.
“There is a specific problem that is happening in the African-American community that is not happening in other communities, and that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”
“The African-American community is not just making this up. It’s not something that’s just being politicized. It’s real,” Obama said, adding: “We as a society, particularly given our history. have to take this seriously.”