Over 100 People Were Killed by Police in March. Have Police Gotten the Post-Ferguson Memo Yet?

Here’s a statistic for you: It's been 31 days since the release of the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing report, but the number of fatal police encounters is already over 100 and counting. That’s an average of more than three people killed each day in March by police in America.

Too many of this month’s victims fit a profile we know all too well – unarmed men of color, some of whom have psychiatric disabilities. Victims like Charly Keunang in Los Angeles, California; Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin; Anthony Hill in DeKalb County, Georgia; and Brandon Jones in Cleveland, Ohio; confirm that the problems with policing are national in scope. 

This isn’t a problem concentrated in a few rogue police departments. Even those police departments with the best of intentions need reform. Take, for example, last week’s Department of Justice report that Philadelphia police shot 400 people – over 80 percent African-American – in seven years. This is in a city where the police commissioner is an author of the very same White House task force report calling for police reform. 

So clearly we must do more than read – or even write – these reports. Report recommendations, several of which are adopted from ACLU recommendations, must be implemented. The task force report makes 63 recommendations, but let’s focus on just two. Neither one is novel, but both are critical to real police reform.

Deescalate Situations

This is stating the obvious, but clearly it needs to be repeated – police departments should adopt use-of-force policies that emphasize de-escalation. 

Excessive and deadly use of force, disproportionately against people of color and people with psychiatric disabilities, is driving national discourse. Jaywalking and selling individual cigarettes should not result in death – nor should failing to take your medication

The ACLU told the task force that de-escalation, training, and incident review are necessary components to any use-of-force policy. The task force agreed, recommending that, “Law enforcement agency policies for training on use of force should emphasize de-escalation and alternatives to arrest or summons in situations where appropriate.”

DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services office must continue working with local police departments to implement appropriate use-of-force standards. The federal government must commit the appropriate resources for this.

And particular attention must be paid to how these policies are impacting people of color, people with disabilities, and other marginalized populations. Otherwise police will continue to be seen as an oppressive force in certain communities, thereby making community policing impossible.

Collect Data

The public needs legitimate data collection practices that promote transparency and accountability when police use unreasonable force. We need something a little more thoughtful than a Google search to give us the stats on the number of police shootings – fatal or nonfatal – in any given period of time.    

As the ACLU explained to the task force, data collection and reporting is the easiest single thing any police department can do starting today. And it will offer the best depiction of what policing in the 21st century looks like.

Both the ACLU and the task force recommend data collection on a range of police and citizen encounters – from stops and arrests to nonfatal and fatal police shootings. “Policies on use of force,” the task force writes, “should also require agencies to collect, maintain, and report data to the Federal Government on all officer-involved shootings, whether fatal or nonfatal, as well as any in-custody death.” And data must be inclusive not just of race and gender but disability as well.

In order for local law enforcement to get serious about data collection, it may take the dangling of federal dollars. The recently enacted Death in Custody Act, which requires data collection on what the title suggests, is taking that approach by penalizing noncompliant agencies through Department of Justice funds. Earlier mandates around data collection – ones that allow law enforcement to voluntarily report data without penalty —aren’t working.  

The task force report – like so many others before it – has spelled out what’s needed for police reform. How many more reports or police shootings do we need before we get to work? 

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Anonymous

In your article you cite a website that derives the majority of its information from facebook. Then later in the same article you complain about the lack of adequate statistics. Which is it. Lets discuss the failure of our legislatures to properly deal with the issue of mental illness in our country. Let discuss our legislatures who allow individuals who clearly are a threat to themselves and others and who either refuse or are incapable of taking the medication that can help them and then become a threat to their families and the public. Let discuss the legislatures who trim every ounce of tax money from these issues to address the new political buzzwords that you create. Lets discuss the massive hiring of police officers since 9/11 and where they went, which is to high crime high populations centers all created by our legislatures through grants. Your organization is needed to protect the civil rights of all persons ALL PERSONS, but you have become a myopic, arrogant, self serving organization that has lost your way. Please develop a conscience and open your eyes look around and you will see that everything has a cause and that cause comes from a motivation look at them not then look at the final result and do something at the root of the problem. Your old and tired and I'm sad for you

Anonymous

Citizens dying on American soil as a result of police action...are we at war with ourselves? When will police overreach become a thing of the past? It's a sad state in America when this is the status quo.

NamKhaeng

You are so right about the de-escalation of the situation, shouting at people with psychiatric disabilities escalate the situation and everything go wrong after that. This is how they trained police where I live in Canada, de-escalate every situation before taking action.
Few months ago I saw 2 police women no taller than 5'6" coming outside a bar for a fight, get out of the car, no hands on gun or taser, come to the guys, calm them down, one wanted to press charge so him and the other were taken to the police station, no cuff, that is what you gain by de-escalating the situation, you don't even need to be 6'6" 250 pounds of muscle to do that, only need the muscle between your ears.

Anonymous

There time will come when the Govt they loves so much kills them when they are done using them..Night of the long knifes.

Anonymous

I've been following Killedbypolice.net (KBP) for months. The same reference Ms. Kanya Bennett uses for her article. The website specifically says these are merely news media articles that "implies neither wrongdoing nor justification on the part of the person killed or the officer involved. The post merely documents the occurrence of a death." Yet Ms. Bennett and the ACLU have made up their minds that the shooting documented by KBP are unjustified and that LEOs are unjustly targeting African Americans with statements like "Have Police Gotten the Post-Ferguson Memo Yet?" What Memo? The Michael Brown Shooting was ruled justified; that Memo? KBP documents 115 police involved deaths which includes many that were not shootings. Of the 115, 29 were African American males. Yet Ms. Bennett says "Too many of this month's victims fit a profile... unarmed men of color..." Since Ms. Bennett and the ACLU are such experts in Law Enforcement, explain to me how one deescalates a man or woman shooting at you. Better yet, since I'm sure Ms. Bennett and the ACLU can point toward their own experiences in law enforcement, please tell me just how many times you have deescalated a man or woman attacking you with a knife or gun.

Anonymous

I've been following Killedbypolice.net (KBP) for months. The same reference Ms. Kanya Bennett uses for her article. The website specifically says these are merely news media articles that "implies neither wrongdoing nor justification on the part of the person killed or the officer involved. The post merely documents the occurrence of a death." Yet Ms. Bennett and the ACLU have made up their minds that the shooting documented by KBP are unjustified and that LEOs are unjustly targeting African Americans with statements like "Have Police Gotten the Post-Ferguson Memo Yet?" What Memo? The Michael Brown Shooting was ruled justified; that Memo? KBP documents 115 police involved deaths which includes many that were not shootings. Of the 115, 29 were African American males. Yet Ms. Bennett says "Too many of this month's victims fit a profile... unarmed men of color..." Since Ms. Bennett and the ACLU are such experts in Law Enforcement, explain to me how one deescalates a man or woman shooting at you. Better yet, since I'm sure Ms. Bennett and the ACLU can point toward their own experiences in law enforcement, please tell me just how many times you have deescalated a man or woman attacking you with a knife or gun.

Anonymous

What about the Black On Black crime in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, why don't we post those figures?? Of our mothers who lost children or our sisters and brothers who lost a siblings? For families forever destroyed because of what? A beef in the street? A turf war related incident? A "you disrespected me incident? Cmon people get it together and police our own neighboods and raise our children to respect one another.

Anonymous

You did not post my comment. I guess "freely" expressing my views on your blog isn't so free!

Anonymous

The problem in the United States with the police is their militarization. The police are buying the weapons of and learning the tactics of the military. The more that people like you try to force it to be a race issue, the less people see the militarization issue that is the root cause of the problem. I leave you with a quote from Battlestar Galactica: "Adama: There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people."

Anonymous

Only 1 of those 100 was classified as unarmed. The rest all had guns or knives or vehicles being used by the peep to intentionally inflict harm on an officer or civilian. The lack of context is disturbing. If you want 0 officer involved kills, then have no officers and see what happens.

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