Police killings have been one of this year’s defining issues, triggering nationwide protests and riots in response to an epidemic of executions without a trial and excessive violence by law enforcement officers that have largely been inflicted on African-Americans. The development of portable film recording technology and heightened interest into the actions of police have revealed a deeply troubling undercurrent of racism infecting our police departments and a shocking tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.
Today, the advocacy group Mapping Police Violence released their data for 2015, and it paints a horrifying picture. Their findings are summarized as follows:
- Police killed at least 1,152 people in the United States from January 1 to December 15, 2015. Nearly one in four these people was killed by one of America’s largest 60 city police departments. To put that in perspective, police in England and Wales have killed 55 in the past twenty-four years. American police killed 55 in the first twenty four days of 2015. Iceland has only killed one in seventy years.
- Police departments disproportionately killed black people, who were 41% of the victims despite being only 20% of the population of those cities.
- Fourteen police departments ONLY killed black Americans
- The rate of overall crime in cities/communities did not correlate to the number of police killings
This data is extremely disturbing. In the wake of the explosive videos coming from the Chicago Police Department that show unarmed men being gunned down, this data shows clearer than ever that something is very wrong with policing in America.
While the vast majority of police officers are stalwart defenders of their communities and the citizens they represent, these numbers indicate that in major urban environments, there is a culture of racism and excessive violence that is persecuting and murdering African-American citizens, who are apparently viewed as inherently dangerous and undeserving of their right to a fair trial. A recent report revealing decades of police planting weapons and drugs on innocent black suspects in one town reveals only confirms that fear.
These killings are an atrocious miscarriage of justice that our nation must address head-on, in a rational and reasonable way. No, FOX News, nobody is trying to provoke a “war on cops.” But we cannot keep allowing police to kill our citizens in such outrageous numbers.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.