Posts Tagged ‘police shootings’

Are police shootings only a race issue?

January 9, 2019

African-American men are shot dead by American police at a much higher rate than white men.  Almost everybody knows this, or should.

In 2012, according to FBI data, African-Americans were 13 percent of the population, but 31 percent of those were shot dead by police, and 39 percent of those shot dead who weren’t attacking.   

But what about shootings of white men?  Are they all justified?  Should we be worried about them?

The World Socialist Web Site pointed out that in some areas of the USA, poor white men are at just as much risk of being killed by police, or even greater risk, as black men.

[There is a] vast and rising death toll among working-class white men in rural and small-town America, who are being killed by police at rates that approach those of black men in urban areas.

Police violence is focused overwhelmingly on men lowest on the socio-economic ladder: in rural areas outside the South, predominately white men; in the Southwest, disproportionately Hispanic men; in mid-size and major cities, disproportionately black men.

Significantly, in the rural South, where the population is racially mixed, white men and black men are killed by police at nearly identical rates. What unites these victims of police violence is not their race, but their class status (as well as, of course, their gender).

Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer who now teaches criminal justice at CUNY, reported that the states with the highest-rates of police killings have lower-than-average black populations, and the states with the higher percentages of black people have lower-than-average rates of police killings.

Utah has a murder and violence rate below the national average, a low poverty rate, and is 90 percent white. And yet people in Utah are almost five times as likely an in New York to be killed by a cop.  Utah has murder rate lower than NYC, 1/5 the poverty rate, far fewer cops, and Utah is 90% white.  In 2018, the rate of people shot and killed by police in Utah is multiple times higher than NYC.

I’d speculate significant variables are (in no particular order) training, fewer cops per capita, fewer cops per mile (no backup), one-person patrol, more guns, gun culture, more meth, more booze, and race (with more white states having more police-involved shootings).

The ten leading states — as in cops most shootingest states — in rank order, are New Mexico, Alaska, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, West Virginia, Montana and Idaho.  It certainly seems like if we were to focus on the states that have the highest rates of police-involved shootings (and by far), we could find some low-hanging fruit to reduce the number of said shootings.  But to do this we’d have stop thinking of police-involved shootings as primarily related to race.

Collectively the top-10 states are 4.9 percent African-American (compared to 13 percent nationally). These are the cowboy states out west. The 10 states with the highest percentage of black population (collectively 25%) have a rate of police-involved homicide (0.24) that is below the national average.

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Do black people have Second Amendment rights?

September 28, 2016

Bruce Webb posted an article on the Angry Bear web site asking whether Second Amendment rights apply to black people.

Supporters of Open Carry and ‘Must Issue’ Concealed Carry insist that no one should be afraid of someone exercising his or her 2nd Amendment Rights whether that be in some public park or the aisles of your local Wal-Mart.

Yet right along side that we have a doctrine that everyone should comply with every request made by a Peace Officer without question and without hesitation and if refusal to comply ends up with the application of force up to and including deadly force, then a sufficient defense is “I feared for my life”.

[snip]  North Carolina is an Open Carry State.  Anyone has the right to carry a handgun in or out of a holster as long as they are not actively threatening someone.  Which you think at a minimum would mean pointing the weapon at someone with some apparent hostile intent.

But instead a man who was NOT the subject of the particular police search action stepped out of his car while visibly armed and after a disputed set of events was gunned down.  Because police “feared for their lives”.

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#BlackLivesMatter is a new kind of movement

September 19, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter is not an organization.   It is a movement inspired by Twitter and Tumbir accounts.   The founders and leaders exercise no power over it.

Its effectiveness—or lack of effectiveness—will be a test of whether decentralized and networked movements, enabled by social media,  will be more effective than the hierarchical, disciplined organizations of the past.

The Twitter and Tumbir accounts were launched by three black women friends in California—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi—after the killing of the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2013.

blacklivesmatterB8NekGarza said they wanted to counter the idea that such tragedies were part of the nature of things, that there was nothing that could be done about it, except for black people to try to avoid behavior that would trigger violence by police and others.

A protest movement sprang up around the “Black Lives Matter” slogan, following the killings of Michael Brown, John Crawford III and Eric Garner the following year.  Garza, Cullors and Tometi found themselves the leaders of the movement, which, however, was an informal network they did not control.

This was a very different kind of movement from the NAACP as I knew it in my youth—an organization where you joined, paid membership dues, elected officers in a chapter which in turn elected directors of a national organization.  Or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was run by black male ministers, who imposed strict standards of behavior on their followers.

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There should be a right to video-record police

April 14, 2015

15041thedifferenceHat tip to The Weekly Sift

Michael Slager, a policeman in North Charleston, S.C., said he shot and killed 50-year-old Walter Scott because they were engaged in a violent altercation, and Scott grabbed for Slager’s Taser.

There would have been hardly any way to challenge that story if a brave soul named Feidin Santana hadn’t recorded the incident and come forward with the video.

The North Charleston Police Department did do the right thing, by filing murder charges against Slager, once they saw the video.

Unfortunately the public can’t count on somebody with a video camera being in the vicinity every time there is a fatal police shooting.

And more unfortunately still, it’s unclear whether there is a legal or constitutional right to videotape police officers in the course of their duty.  Santana’s camera could very well have been confiscated and the record destroyed.

It would be nice if American police departments made a practice of video recording all police encounters with the public, but I suspect that recordings might have a tendency to be lost or destroyed in cases such as this.

I think there should be laws in every state upholding the right to make video recordings of police and other government employees when they are on duty and in public, subject to restrictions to keep the video photographer from physically getting in the way of police and others doing their jobs.

LINKS

In Many States, Including South Carolina, the Right to Videotape Police Isn’t All That Clear by Daniel Denvir for The Atlantic.  [Hat tip to Cop in the Hood]

Everything The Police Said About Walter Scott’s Death Before a Video Showed What Really Happened by Judd Legum for ThinkProgress.

Walter Scott Shooting Video Caught Police Propaganda Machine in Action by Andrew Jewell Jones for The Intercept.

Reflections on the meaning of Ferguson

December 5, 2014

TomTomorrow2014-12-03polliceshootings

The killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., was no different from a lot of other cases in which armed white men have shot and killed unarmed black men, or armed police officers have killed unarmed civilians.  If you’re looking for reasons why this incident rather than another was the trigger, the answer probably doesn’t like in a detailed study of the incident itself.

There’s a proverb about how one final straw, added to a load, will break a camel’s back.  The answer as to why the camel’s back was broken probably doesn’t lie in a microscopic examination of that one particular straw.

The significance of Ferguson is less in the facts about Ferguson itself as in the pattern which Ferguson represents.  If you want to know what I mean by the pattern, click on this and this and this and this and this.

If I were black, I think I would see these events in the light of Goldfinger’s Rule – Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.

The linked articles described incidents that differ in circumstances and mitigating factors, but there are a few common themes:

  • The fear that many white people (not just police officers) have of black people.
  • The insistence of many police officers on instant compliance with orders (not just by black people) and their quickness to use force against perceived disobedience and disrespect.
  • Lack of training both in fire discipline and in non-violent means of defusing situations.

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