I’m appalled by what Van Jones and Paul Martin had to endure yesterday as they rebutted on CNN a racist who defended police violence against black citizens. Why does CNN treat this man’s opinion as justifiable by giving it air time equal to Mr. Jones and Mr. Martin? The media should not enflame the citizens by highlighting extreme minority opinions.
Here are some facts that I’d like to share with the CNN racist.
UNARMED BLACK PEOPLE KILLED BY POLICE
Between 1980 and 2008, America’s incarcerated population grew from 500,000 to 2.3 million. Sixty percent of incarcerated Americans are now black or Latino.
- A black person is 3 times more likely to be killed by police than a white person.
- 33% of black victims have been unarmed compared to 18% of white victims.
- A black person is 6 times more likely to be killed by police in Oklahoma than in Georgia.
- Fewer than 1 in 3 black people killed by police were suspected of a violent crime and armed with a gun.
- Black people killed by police were not more likely to be suspected of a violent crime than white people killed by police.
- Of the people killed by police in 2014, 29% were violent suspects with a gun, and 71% were non-violent.
Gawker has a long list with photos and biographies of unarmed people of color killed by police from 1999 to 2014. And, the New York Times has an article,The Raw Videos That Have Sparked Outrage Over Police Treatment of Blacks, with up the minute videos of police violence. It is difficult to look at these videos, but I feel that it is my duty to bear witness to these atrocities by watching them because otherwise I would find them unbelievable.
BLACK PEOPLE COMMIT MORE CRIME: TRUE OR FALSE
The racist who harassed Mr. Jones and Mr. Martin on CNN justified police violence against black citizens because he said that they commit more crime. To find out if what he is saying is true or not, let’s look at stats from an article, Black Crime Rates: What Happens When Numbers Aren’t Neutral.
- Black people make up 13% of the population and 40% of the prison population.
- White people make up 64% of the population and 39% of the prison population.
This does not mean that black people commit more crime, but that they are more likely to be arrested for a crime than white people. For example, black people are 3.7% more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people even though white people and black people smoke marijuana at the same rates. In addition, black people often live in dense urban areas which are more heavily policed and they are more likely than white people to be illegally searched.
When black people are convicted of a crime, they are more likely to be incarcerated than a white person convicted of the same crime. According to the article:
“…there are systemic differences in how blacks and whites are treated by the law. These differences, which are compounded in each successive phase of the criminal justice process, increase the percentage of black people incarcerated for committing a particular crime.
Regardless of the exact factors behind the incarceration gap, it is not some neutral, statistical fact that black people commit more crime. The gap is the result of numerous interacting factors, not the least of which is racism. Explanations of the incarceration gap as a result of black criminal propensity or insular cultural deficiencies are critically flawed, and by definition racist.”
WHERE ARE BLACK PEOPLE KILLED THE MOST OFTEN?
In big cities, black people tend to be killed more by police; in smaller towns, it is the mentally ill who are killed . In 17 of the largest US cities, listed below, police killings of black people exceed the US murder rates (3.9 per 100,000 per year). The top cities for police violence are:
- Hialeah, Florida
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Madison, Wisconsin
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
- North Las Vegas, Nevada
- San Antonio, Texas
- Bakersfield, California
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Jersey City, New Jersey
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Orlando, Florida
- Garland, Texas
- Stockton, Califorornia
- Los Angeles, California
- Fresno, California
- St. Louis, Missiouri
In Oklahoma, a black person has a nearly 50% chance of being killed by the police. In New Mexico, the chances are 30% and more than 25% in Missouri and Alaska. The top states for police killings of black people are:
- New Mexico
In some states there is a 0% chance of black people being killed by the police. These non-lethal states are::
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
HOW DO PEOPLE KILLED BY POLICE COMPARE TO POLICE KILLED BY PEOPLE?
Local police in the US kill about 1,000 people a year, mostly minorities. A white police officer in the United States killed a black person on average of twice per week from 2005 to 2012, according to homicide reports offered to the FBI.
By contrast, the number of police killed by gunfire fell 14% in 2015 from the 49 who were killed in 2014.
From 1980–2014, an average of 64 law enforcement officers have been feloniously killed per year. The 2013 total, 27, was the lowest during this 35-year period. In 2014, 49 officers were killed, most in the South.
So, police kill 1000 people a year while people kill 42 police a year. Tragically, 2016 will see a rise with the appalling murders yesterday of five Dallas policemen.
HOW DO US POLICE KILLINGS COMPARE TO OTHER COUNTRIES?
How do the 1,000 US police killings a year compare to other countries?
- 14 Canadians were killed by police in 2014.
- 1 fatal shooting by UK police in 2014.
- 4 fatal shootings in the UK from 2000 through 2014.
- 52 people killed by police in the UK during the entire 20th century.
- 12 police killings in China in 2014.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT POLICE VIOLENCE
Fortunately, viable solutions for police brutality have been suggested. The Center for Popular Democracy and Policy Link partnered with community activists to issue a 15-point report, “Building From the Ground Up: A Toolkit for Promoting Justice in Policing.” Here’s are some suggestions from the article, “15 Things You Can Do Right Now to End Police Brutality.”
- Push police departments and district attorneys to de-prioritize the enforcing and prosecuting of low-level offenses.
- Sever ties between Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police departments.
- Train police officers to better identify addicts and people who live with mental illness and to guide them into treatment programs instead of jail.
- Train officers to use de-escalation tactics and to keep track of results through frequent data collection and analysis.
- Evaluate the potential racial impact of any new laws, and involve community organizers and people who work with disadvantaged populations in every step of the process.
- Provide avenues through which private citizens can take the police to court when they believe they’ve been profiled. Incorporate allegations of bias into an officer’s evaluation process.
- Police should have to alert people to their right to refuse a search. Officers should have to present documentary proof of consent — whether in written, audio or video form. They should also guarantee that there will be no negative consequences if a person refuses a search.
- Every city should have an adequately funded community oversight board with significant investigatory and disciplinary powers.
- Create clear rules for when body cameras must be activated. They should be earmarked by state or localities rather than as part of local police budgets and footage should be accessible to citizens.
- Cases against police officers should be tried by independent prosecutors, not the district attorneys who work with them all the time.
- Each state should establish a fully authorized and independent Office of Police Investigations, with the authority to prosecute police officers in criminal court.
- External oversight committees should be independent, and instituted at the city or county level. And the police should be required to acknowledge and respond to their recommendations.
- Do not arm the police with military equipment.
- Create a national standard for what constitutes excessive force.
- Give police more training in how to de-escalate tense situations such as people with guns, people with knives, car chases, foot pursuits.
- Train police on how to develop better relationships with their communities. Incorporate culture, diversity, mental illness training, youth development, bias and racism in the training.
One success story is the Las Vegas police department, which implemented 72 of 80 reforms suggested by the Justice Department. The rate of police shootings in Las Vegas has dropped 36% since 2011. Many of the reforms improved the process for reviewing these shootings and for training police officers. A Critical Incident Review Team was created in 2010. Reality-Based Training was implemented in 2011. And, changes were made to the Use of Force Review Board in 2012.
Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011 and founded Mothering.com in 1995. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three.