Police Brutality

I’ve been wanting to write an article about police violence recently and there is just so much to be said on the topic, I haven’t known where to start. This video of black parents teaching their children how to interact with the police got to me today and while my thoughts are far from complete, I had to at least start the conversation here on Old News.

Seems like almost every day now I’m waking up to a horrific video of police violence. It seems like an exaggeration, but then you see something like this statistic, and its clear that I’m still only seeing a fraction of these types of infractions.

When cameras first started popping up everywhere in public, the fear of what that type of surveillance would lead to was fresh in my mind. One of the things that has become most apparent, however, is just how much a fraction of our police force has been taking advantage of their position of power.

From a Buzzfeed article on the subject:

BuzzFeed News reviewed 62 examples since 2008, including 40 since 2014, of video footage contradicting a cop’s statement in a police report or testimony. Nine of these videos captured high-profile abuses that led to protests, dominated Twitter timelines, and drew coverage from more than a few national news outlets. The other 53 incidents came and went without much attention beyond that from local residents and reporters. In almost every case, the officers lied for the same reason Buckley did: to retroactively justify their actions.
There are no comprehensive statistical studies of police lying — for somewhat obvious reasons: It’s impossible to know how often officers get away with lying. In one quantitative effort published in the University of Chicago Law Review in 1992, Myron Orfield, who is now a law professor at the University of Minnesota, surveyed dozens of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in Chicago. Fifty-two percent of them responded that prosecutors “know or have reason to know” that an officer fabricated evidence “at least half of the time.” Nearly 90% of prosecutors responded that they were aware of police perjury in cases “at least some of the time.”

Unfortunately, even the video evidence is just not enough.

Of the 62 incidents BuzzFeed News reviewed, only 22 led to charges being filed against an officer, and of those, only nine have resulted in convictions.

In what should be a surprise to no one, these incidents have a deep racial component. From a Wired article on the same subject:

But Nix wanted to understand what was happening in the real world. So he and fellow researchers turned to one of the only robust datasets that exists on police shootings—a 2015 database compiled by the Washington Post. They analyzed each case based on the victim’s race and whether the victim was armed or attacking the officer or other civilians when he or she was shot. The results are staggering, if unsurprising. Of the 990 fatal shootings the researchers analyzed from 2015, police were more than twice as likely to have killed unarmed black civilians as unarmed white civilians.

First off, 990 fatal shootings in 2015 alone. That’s a tragedy in it of itself. Of course, even that data is just a small subset of what we should be looking at. From the same article:

Both Glaser and Nix agree that these results are far from complete. For one, the Washington Post’s database—novel though it may be—includes only fatal shootings, which make up just a fraction of all instances of deadly force used by police against civilians. “If we had data on all shootings, not just fatal shootings, then we could speak to the likelihood of using deadly force,” Nix says. “Now, we’re working with less than half of all the puzzle pieces.”

The impact of this is startlingly real and not properly comprehended by half our population. When this type of thing is happening multiple times a day, it suddenly is all too real why parents are forced to do drills with their children on how to handle these situations.