Police Killings

30 years after Rodney King, police kill a Black person every 40 hours in America, and police are the 6th leading cause of death for young Black men.

Data Source: Washington Post

The Path Forward

George Floyd was killed on May 25th, 2020. Derek Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. 9 months later, Democratic leaders introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House of Representatives in a largely party-line vote and failed in the Senate in September 2021. The bill outlines some of the best paths forward for reducing police violence in America. 

  • 🔫 Limit the use of deadly force - US law states that deadly force is only allowed if an officer believes there is “imminent” threat to the officer or if the suspect is fleeing and may harm the community. This means that deadly force can be the first option that an officer turns to. Police should have to exhaust all other forms of apprehension. Colorado, Sacramento, and New York City have also increased their standards for the use of deadly force and 5 states have created rules limiting the deadly actions that police can  take when a suspect is fleeing. This has shown to increase accountability and reduce police killings by increasing the threshold for which force can be used. 

  • 🏛 Restrict qualified immunity - Qualified immunity shields police from personal accountability for wrongs committed on the job. When the Supreme Court created this statute in 1967, it largely helped police stop the Ku Klux Klan. But it has now taken on new force to allow individuals to be protected under a police system. Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico, and New York City have all ended or restricted qualified immunity, thereby forcing cops to recognize the role they play as individuals in ending the life of other individuals. Last year, a federal appeals court found that a police officer who shot a 10-year-old by mistake while aiming for the family’s dog was protected from liability under qualified immunity.

  • 🪖 Demilitarize the police - Researchers have found that the more military gear a police department has, the more that those police officers kill Americans. The Federal 1033 program allows the Department of Defense to give state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies military hardware like grenade launchers, bayonets and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPS). Police departments with no 1033 requisitions could expect 0.287 killings of suspects, on average per year, while those with the max expenditure could expect 0.656 killings, more than twice as many. The researchers even found a similar increase in police killings of dogs, suggesting that cops weren't necessarily gearing up for big, casualty-heavy raids with their requisitions. They were simply becoming more violent in general.