Protected Cops Means Unprotected People of Color
I’ve always said that, in any encounter with the socially and legally protected cops, people of color (specifically Black and Latino males), have a 50/50 chance of living. It actually turns out it’s a little worse than that.
People of Color
According to the Washington Post, as of December 24, American police had fatally shot 965 people in 2015. (The Guardian, in the midst of its own study, reports a slightly higher number of shootings). 564 of those killed were armed with a gun, 281 were armed with another weapon, and 90 were unarmed. In fully three-quarters of shootings, “police were under attack or defending someone who was.”
While white police officers (the most protected cops) killing unarmed black men — represent “less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings”, “black men make up only 6 percent of the U.S. population, yet they account for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year.” Additionally, a “hugely disproportionate” ratio of “3 in 5” blacks and Hispanics were shot to death after “exhibiting less threatening behavior” than brandishing a gun.
What does this mean? David French would say this confirms police use force mainly to protect human life, and the use of force against unarmed suspects is rare.
What it really means is if you are a black or latino male, stay away from largely unaccountable and insularly protected cops. Anything from threatening with nonlethal force to walking around can get you killed.
Meanwhile, entrenched, protected cops have never been safer on the street. Accordiing to the Huffington Post, a total of 36 police officers were fatally shot in the line of duty this year, according to Officer Down Memorial Page, a website that independently tracks a broad range of data on law enforcement deaths. Four of the officers included on its list are K-9 units, however. An additional two officers were killed by suspects who used vehicles as a weapon, which brings the human total to 34. 51 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014.
This number, while not official, would mark one of the lowest annual totals in more than 50 years of reporting. 27 officers were killed as a result of felonious acts in 2013, according to the FBI, the record low in recent decades.
The FBI reported an average of 64 law enforcement officers feloniously killed each year since 1980. 51 officers slain in the line of duty in 2014, though a slight increase from 2013, was still a below-average year. While still tragic, we finished 2015 with about half the annual average number of police officers killed in the line of duty.
Gun-related police deaths were about six times higher than they are today. During the Prohibition era, police deaths involved firearms at rates 14 to 17 times higher than present day.
Police are also facing less nonlethal violence today. While the FBI hasn’t released data for 2015, the data through 2014 clearly illustrates a downward trend in assaults against cops over the last decade. Seth Stoughton, a law professor and former police officer, charted the 2014 FBI assault data earlier this year:
Updated chart includes FBI's newly-released data on officers assaulted (chart has total numbers & 10-year averages) pic.twitter.com/D1KkUbIfsh
— Seth Stoughton (@PoliceLawProf) October 29, 2015
This is not even necessarily new. Cops have always felt they could get away with killing people of color threat or not. they have the means through superior weaponry, but they largely have the support of the criminal justice system of which they are the enforcement arm of.