Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Police brutality; death; racism; disablism; classism. Descriptions of police shootings at link.]

"These shootings are grossly under­reported. We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information."—Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement, quoted in a Washington Post article reporting that there have already been nearly 400 fatal police shootings nationwide in 2015.

Among the Post's findings:
● About half the victims were white, half minority. But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic. Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred.

● The vast majority of victims — more than 80 percent — were armed with potentially lethal objects, primarily guns, but also knives, machetes, revving vehicles and, in one case, a nail gun.

● Forty-nine people had no weapon, while the guns wielded by 13 others turned out to be toys. In all, 16 percent were either carrying a toy or were unarmed.

● The dead ranged in age from 16 to 83. Eight were children younger than 18, including Jessie Hernandez, 17, who was shot three times by Denver police officers as she and a carload of friends allegedly tried to run them down.

The Post analysis also sheds light on the situations that most commonly gave rise to fatal shootings. About half of the time, police were responding to people seeking help with domestic disturbances and other complex social situations: A homeless person behaving erratically. A boyfriend threatening violence. A son trying to kill himself.

Ninety-two victims — nearly a quarter of those killed — were identified by police or family members as mentally ill.
I'll note that we need to regard with skepticism the contention that more than 80% of victims "were armed with potentially lethal objects" when they were shot.

First, because the definition of "potentially lethal objects" frequently defies credulity. Freddie Gray, whose death would not be included in this compilation because the Post "looked exclusively at shootings, not killings by other means, such as stun guns and deaths in police custody," was said to have been carrying a potentially lethal weapon because he was carrying a small pocketknife.

Secondly, because some police officers plant weapons on their victims. The police officer who killed Walter Scott, whose death was included in this report, was caught on video dropping his Taser near Scott's body. We cannot trust police accounts to be the sole source of information about whether victims were carrying weapons.

Also, at the Guardian: "The Counted: People killed by police in the US." Their number, which includes shooting deaths, Taser deaths, and deaths in custody, currently stands at 464.

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