As Black Lives Matter protests continue in cities around the world, America has taken center stage in the fight against systematic injustice and police violence.
Just how big is the problem? Between 2013 and 2019, American police killed over 7,500 people. 99% of those deaths resulted in no charges against police. Of those killed, nearly a quarter are Black, even though they make up only 13% of the population and are more likely to be unarmed when killed than whites or Hispanics.
In 2019 alone, over 1,000 civilians were killed by police. 48 officers were killed in the line of duty. Even though violent and property crimes are down, police have killed more people so far in 2020 compared to the same timeframe in previous years.
According to New York City Council’s Campaign Zero Policing Report, there are proven paths to progress. Reducing policing of “low level offenses that pose no threat to public safety” is a route to prevent tens of thousands of unnecessary arrests and reduce the risk of police violence in communities. “Scaling up the role of mental health providers, substance abuse counselors and other community-based responses” is more effective in such cases, according to a study in American Psychological Review.
“Police departments should decriminalize or de-prioritize enforcement of these issues,” allowing them to focus on the small 5% of arrests associated with violent crimes.
The report found clear research indicating that “police departments with more restrictive use of force policies – like banning chokeholds and requiring de-escalation – are substantially less likely to kill people.” Straightforwardly mandating that police use less force results in less violence, imagine that. Police spend on average only 8 hours learning to de-escalate, compared to 58 hours learning to shoot. Prioritizing these empathy-building and respect-oriented skills can prevent situations from ever getting to the shooting point.
Hiring more minorities also combats systemic racism as “research shows that Black officers are more likely to believe in and push for change within police departments.” Other recommended routes include demilitarizing police, establishing community oversight boards, and reducing the power of police unions to block investigations into allegations of misconduct.
Ultimately, we must aim to facilitate a more empathetic connection between police forces and those who have experienced discrimination and violence at their hand.
For a deeper, data driven perspective on police brutality, take a look at the interactive Police Violence Report and visit the National Police Violence map to see how you can make a difference.