January 29, 2023

Nappy Newz

Black News for Black People.

The US government could count those killed by police, but it’s chosen not to


For centuries, black communities in America have faced physical abuse and unjustified deadly force at the hands of law enforcement. Modern policing even originated in slave patrols and night watches that captured people who tried to escape slavery. According to the most recent FBI data, local police kill black people at nearly the same rate as people lynched in the Jim Crow-era – at least two times a week. The Guardian’s latest count for the first five months of 2015 puts that number at around once per day.

But the verifiable impact on black lives of racially discriminatory policing remains largely unknown. Despite federal law authorizing the US attorney general to collect nationwide data on police use of force, there remains no federal database on how often police kill civilians, let alone abuse their authority.

According to Guardian’s The Counted, police killed 464 people in the first 5 months of 2015, including 135 black people. Their data shows that, in 2015 so far, the black people killed by the police are twice as likely to be unarmed as the white people. According to a recent Washington Post analysis, at this rate, police will fatally shoot nearly 1,000 people by the end of year. The federal government has no way to confirm or disprove this data, though they’ve long had the authority to compile it themselves.

In 1994, the US Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which authorized the attorney general to collect and publish nationwide data on police use of force. In 2000, Congress passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act, which required states to report any individual who dies in police custody, but lacked proper enforcement and expired in 2006. In December 2014, a new version of the latter act passed again, requiring the attorney general to eliminate federal funding for police departments that fail to comply.

And just last week, as part of President Obama’s executive order to limit the types of militarized weapons the federal government can transfer to local police, he expanded police data collection of police uses of force, pedestrian and vehicle stops, officer involved shootings and more. But the executive action fails to address the scale of today’s policing crisis or make the data collection mandatory: of 18,000 police departments in the US, only 21 are participating in the new initiative.

We cannot afford to wait another 20 years for comprehensive, public data on how often local, state and federal police use force. Why? Because transparency is key for accountability. For every Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Mya Hall, Yuvette Henderson, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Aiyana-Stanley Jones or Tanisha Anderson, there are thousands of others. Without a database, police will continue to target, abuse, kill and unjustly push black and brown people into the criminal justice system with zero oversight.

A national database will allow federal officials to identify patterns of misconduct, hold individual officers and departments accountable when necessary, address the policies that incentivize police brutality and implement reforms that allow law enforcement officers to do their jobs while respecting the lives and dignity of all in their communities.

As we have seen over the past two decades, unless police are required to report stops, arrests, tickets and violence, they won’t. Compliance with data collection and other federal reforms must be tied to funding and Attorney General Lynch has the power and responsibility to make it happen. Powerful police unions, insufficient federal law and piecemeal reforms stand in the way. But with enough widespread public pressure, we can all hold our national leaders accountable for providing the information we – and they – need to keep our communities safe and transform policing.

The daily courage of black people and their allies who continue to resist the rising tide of police killings means that our national leaders are paying more attention to discriminatory and violent policing than they have in decades. The opportunity for change is great, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Source: The US government could count those killed by police, but it’s chosen not to

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