New ACLU report finds that police shootings have not decreased despite pandemic
A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reveals that even though Americans have spent most of 2020 inside their homes social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic, fatal police shootings haven’t stopped or slowed down.
As of June 30, law enforcement officers had shot and killed 511 people.
Between 2015 and 2019, the average number of 19.4 fatal police shootings occurred in the country per week over the first half of the year.
This number didn’t change for 2020, despite much of the country being closed down in March, April and May.
“The findings of this report show that police violence in our country is not situational, but rather endemic to our country’s policing institution. Despite a once in a lifetime public health crisis that has upended societal norms and caused a decrease in physical interaction, police still manage to kill people at the same rate as before the outbreak of COVID-19,” Paige Fernandez, policing policy adviser at the ACLU, said in a release.
While the pandemic has wreaked havoc to the U.S. economy and left more than 170,000 in the country dead, the nation has also been forced to grapple with police brutality and societal questions surrounding race after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by Minneapolis police.
Floyd’s death catalyzed the rebirth of the Black Lives Matter movement and fueled protests across the nation.
Relations between Americans and the police have if anything gotten worse over the summer. Police forces in large cities received waves of criticism for tear gassing protesters and firing non-lethal rounds of ammunition into crowds as forms of crowd control. Some demonstrations reached a boiling point, resulting in looting and property damage.
Advocates of the moment have called for the defunding of police departments, saying that funds could be better spent elsewhere in communities.
The movement has been polarizing and increased the chasm of differences between Democrats and Republicans.
President Trump and his administration have an aggressive stance against protesters. Trump staunchly supports law enforcement — an important voting bloc for him — and has taken seldom-used steps, such as the deployment federal law enforcement officers to Portland, Ore., to try to quell the unrest.
In defending the actions of police departments, Trump has pointed out that more white people are killed by cops than Black people every year.
While technically correct, the claim is misleading. In its report, the ACLU notes that since 2015, 2,491 white people were fatally shot by the police compared to 1,298 Black people. However, white people make up 60 percent of the U.S. population — Black people make up around 13 percent.
The end result is the disproportionate killing of Black Americans at the hands of police. Black people in the U.S. are more than three times more likely to be fatally shot by police than white people. Latino people and Native Americans are also killed by police at considerably higher rates than white people.
“In order to address the tide of police violence that continues in Black and Brown communities despite a global pandemic, we must transform policing in this country by dramatically reducing police departments’ role, responsibilities, power, and funding,” Fernandez said. “Only then can we truly eliminate unnecessary interactions between the police and community members, thereby reducing violence and deaths.”