Ferguson is Everytown, U.S.A.

The tragic killing of college-bound teenager Michael Brown has raised questions about the frequency with which police kill unarmed black men in America. The answer, unfortunately, is far too often.

Just three months ago, on a warm April afternoon, a white police officer shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, a 31-year-old black man, in downtown Milwaukee's Red Arrow Park. According to the Milwaukee police chief, the officer was "defending himself in a violent situation." But the eyewitness report of a Starbucks barista paints a very different picture.

According to the barista, Hamilton had been sleeping on the concrete sidewalk next to Starbucks when two police officers approached him, asked him questions, and left after determining that he was doing nothing wrong. But an hour or so later, she heard yelling. Looking out the Starbucks window, she saw a different white police officer standing up against Hamilton, "who was holding the officer's own baton in a defense posture." The officer "lunged" at Hamilton in an attempt to get the baton, but failed. The barista watched in horror as the officer stood 10 feet away from Hamilton, pulled out a gun, and shot Hamilton 10 times in quick succession without issuing any verbal warnings. The barista reports that she never saw Hamilton hit the officer with the baton.

The tragic killing of Hamilton bears a striking – and deeply troubling – resemblance to the killing of Michael Brown, who was shot by an officer six times, including twice in the head, after being stopped for walking down the middle of a street. Including Hamilton and Brown, at least six black men were shot and killed by police since April in circumstances that suggest the unjustified use of excessive force and possible racial profiling.

In July, Eric Garner was killed in New York by officers who placed him in a chokehold – a banned tactic – and slammed his head into a sidewalk during an attempt to arrest him for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes.

In early August, police in Beavercreek, Ohio, fatally shot John Crawford III in a Walmart, where Crawford had been holding a BB gun that he had picked up on a store shelf.

Just days after the killing of Brown, Ezell Ford was killed by police on a Los Angeles sidewalk during an investigative stop. While police contend that officers opened fire after a "struggle," Ford's mother reports that he was lying on the ground complying with the officers' order when he was shot three times in the back.

And the very next day, pressman Dante Parker was killed in Victorville, California, after being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by police attempting to arrest him as a suspect in a nearby robbery. Apparently, police suspected him because he was riding a bicycle, and the robbery suspect was reported to have fled on a bike.

The stories of these six people make one thing painfully clear: The killing of black men in incidents that begin as investigatory police stops are anything but unusual in America. In this sense, Ferguson is Everytown, U.S.A.

There is a reason for this. More than 240 years of slavery and 90 years of legal segregation in this country have created a legacy of racialized policing. Killings and beatings lie at one end of a spectrum in which black people ­– and young black men in particular – are routinely stigmatized, humiliated, and harassed as targets for police stops, frisks, and searches, even when they are doing nothing wrong.

The numbers show the reality.

Studies of Rhode Island traffic stops and New York pedestrian stops confirm that police stop blacks at higher rates than whites. Even more troubling is that the New York study determined that a neighborhood's racial composition was the main factor for determining NYPD stop rates, above and beyond the "role of crime, social conditions, or the allocation of police resources." In other words, New York cops targeted blacks because of their race – not because they happened to live in a dangerous place or in an area flooded by police.

Data from Ferguson mirrors these racial disparities. Last year, blacks not only accounted for 86 percent of stops, 92 percent of searches, and 93 percent of arrests by Ferguson police, the state attorney general's office calculated that blacks were overrepresented in these encounters in light of their population figures. Even more damning is the fact that although police were twice as likely to search blacks than whites after initiating a stop, whites were far more likely to be found with contraband.

It is not a leap to conclude that the same biases that cause those racial disparities also make it more likely that black men will die during the course of police arrests. According to the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, although black men made up only 27.8 percent of all persons arrested from 2003-2009, they made up 31.8 percent of all persons who died in the course of arrest, and the majority of these deaths were homicides.

Why does racialized policing persist despite the end of slavery and Jim Crow? While explicit racial bias may be less prominent today (albeit anything but eliminated), implicit racial biases plague all of us, including those charged with keeping our streets safe. A large body of compelling research has demonstrated how these unconscious, automatically activated, and pervasive mental processes translate into action with devastating consequences for black people.

In particular, researchers have well-documented shooter bias. One video game study simulated the nearly instantaneous decisions made by police officers to shoot armed individuals and to refrain from shooting the unarmed. The study revealed that participants were more likely to shoot black people than white people in error.

Both explicit and implicit biases lead far too often to the killing of black men in police-civilian encounters. And they undergird the daily indignity and humiliation experienced by blacks who are stopped, questioned, and searched by police when they have done nothing wrong.

Police are sworn to serve and protect everyone equally, not disproportionately stop and harass only certain communities. Rather than express surprise and shock during a summer where six black men have been killed by police in highly questionable circumstances, it is up to us to do something.

The single most important first step is to provide accountability—including through the Attorney General's issuance of a comprehensive ban on racial profiling. Accountability will advance justice for past harms and pave the way forward for a future in which we are closer to the promise of equal justice for all.

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"Even more damning is the fact that although police were twice as likely to search blacks than whites after initiating a stop, whites were far more likely to be found with contraband."

---please provide where this FACT came from.

Even if I can agree that police all over this country are more likely to arrest and stop black men, you cannot claim that it is because of racism. When I bought drugs, I had five different dealers. Four were black. Am I being racist because I know that in my experience, the majority of my drug dealers have been black? No, I'm being realistic. Unfortunately, black members of this country are predisposed to difficult life. Poverty, Gangs, violence. With this environment, they are often driven to crime. It is not racist or racial profiling to stop a saggy pants man in a tank top, with big thick chains and a stack of cash, whether he is white or black. He is demonstrating a profile of a criminal. If you don't wish to be considered or mistaken as a criminal, don't appear to be one. These deaths are tragedy, completely devastating lack of control in the system. That's true. But to make a claim, as everyone has been doing for years, that they were killed because of their skin color is as silly as suggesting because the color pants they wear. Let's consider that for a moment. If every criminal that the police in, let's say, Orlando Florida arrests (regardless of skin color) is wearing green shorts, would it then be fair to suggest people wearing those green shorts may be committing a crime, or about to commit a crime, or have evidence of a crime having been committed? YES BECAUSE THAT IS CALLED LOGIC.

How about if this entire argument had nothing to do with race? If the incident was that these men were unarmed and (in certain cases) completely innocent while committing a crime. THAT IS ALREADY WRONG. Why does it have to turn into articles labeling the african-american community "blacks" or "they" and everyone else as "whites."

Racism starts within. If we keep digging the line between the races, we continue to highlight their differences, when we should be focusing on how all humans are equal, especially in this country, and NO person, black or white, should fear the police when they are doing nothing wrong. This is a police brutality issue, not racism.


You said you had resolved issues with the Ferguson police department regarding media access, yet it was reported today that a Getty photographer was denied access to the ongoing events in Ferguson. Was that legal? When is it legal to bar press access? This issue has become HUGE in recent history, including not only police behavior and protests in genera (like Occupy)l but also environmental disasters like the Gulf oilspill where media was completedly prohibited including airspace and I think a leak in the pipeline in the Midwest as well. Is all of that legal?


Just how many whites are killed by blacks everyday. How many white women are raped everyday by black males.

Blacks make up 13 percent of the population but are half of the prison population and they overwhelmingly mooch off the welfare system.

Also two thirds of abortions are done by black women so lets just conclude that blacks are more trouble than they are worth.


The only "defense posture" would have been to put the weapon down. The "barista" is not a mind reader.


Maybe its time that the Ferguson Police Dept "gets with the program" there. They have rights too but are being mistreated. Perhaps if the police officers there were to all walk off the job and choose to protest unfair treatment, maybe we can see some real "change" there and abroad. They certainly have just cause. Maybe its time to demand the human respect we say we all deserve. Unfortunate that the community will probably tear itself apart, within, without police intervention. There will surely be looting and destruction and violence in the street, while alcohol and drug induced parties take place on the roofs of buildings owned by working people. Oh wait.....there already is!!! Pretty sure the officers won't reduce themselves to throwing urine or breaking shop windows though. All of this while your small children are watching.....shame on you Ferguson!! Don't expect respect from the rest of us when you don't even know how to treat each other!! This is Not a "race" thing.....this is just a BAD thing, with people acting badly, in the name of justice!


All one needs to do is read the above comments. Racism is alive and well. I am ashamed to even call these people (like Anonymous 1 and 3) my fellow Americans.


I don't know. I was raped by TWO black males. Both of them had weapons while they did it and I only lived because I somehow convinced them I'd never tell a single soul what happened (I thought so myself while it was happening) and both of them walked away scot-free. Probably spent less than a day in jail for it. Then two years later the ONE of them came back to try to kill me for taking him to court in a situation where he was found NOT GUILTY. And he really DID do this to me. I'm sure as hell not going to stand around saying no black person has ever raped a white person - but I'm also NOT going to say no white person ever raped a black person. And in BOTH cases, the DEFENSE ATTORNEYS (like some of the people who write these articles are) tell blatant foul-ass lies and get off a client they know damn well is guilty.
Well, I know a damn defense attorney too and unless he told me a big giant lie, it has NEVer been the job of counsel for the defendant to let a person walk free when he or she believes in their heart of hearts based on the evidence that the crime in question was in fact committed by the defendant. In that case, he claims, it's the responsibility of the defense attorney to represent his or her client in a fair trial and sentencing afterward.
I don't FULLY understand what that means, but what it meant to me was that they were going to get the person a sentence that's fair according to the Constitution. I mean I GUESS it must mean that, else why do they say capital punishment violates the 8th Amendment after the majority of 8 Supreme Court justices voted that there was a condition you could place on the 8th Amendment having to do with a cruel and unusual crime justifying a cruel and unusual punishment.
But that's not what feels like happens if you're the victim of ANY crime, especially a violent one and I've been the victim of two violent crimes.

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