Young black men killed
by US police at highest
rate in year of 1,134 deaths
By Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland, Jamiles Lartey and Ciara McCarthy,
in the Guardian, Thursday 31 December 2015
(Note: We wish a Happy New Year 2016 to our readers against the background of the unhappy news that US police shot to death five times more blacks – 1,134 — than whites in 2015, according to UK’s Guardian Survey. It calls upon all of us to redouble our efforts to treat all humans around us equally, irrespective of the shade of their colour – black, white, brown or yellow. The value of a human is not in the colour of one’s skin but in the content of his/her character, as Martin Luther King told us. We don’t have to be pessimistic about 2015 or optimistic about 2016.What is demanded of us is to be realistic about tomorrow. According to a “Politifact” survey in the last one decade gunshots killed over 300,000 people in US. In all 50 US states at least one death was caused by police in 2015. All realize it is next to impossible to root out caste system from Indian society and caste mentality from Indian psyche. Same is the problem in US with hatred towards the blacks. Just as a bull goes wild before a red rag some whites are led to act similarly. That is the source of the short form WASP, meaning White Anglo Saxon Protestant, who are most opposed to mix with the coloured although they use and abuse them. Just the opposite is the mentality of Spanish who colonized South America and mixed with the locals through marriage, thus nipping the racial problem in the bud. Let the New year help India to overcome its caste allergy and US it’s colour-caste mentality. james kottoor, editor.)
Final total of people killed by US police officers in 2015 shows rate of death for young black men was five times higher than white men of the same age.Young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers in 2015, according to the findings of a Guardian study that recorded a final tally of 1,134 deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers this year.
Despite making up only 2% of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths logged this year by an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police. Their rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher than for white men of the same age.Paired with official government mortality data, this new finding indicates that about one in every 65 deaths of a young African American man in the US is a killing by police.
“This epidemic is disproportionately affecting black people,” said Brittany Packnett, an activist and member of the White House taskforce on policing. “We are wasting so many promising young lives by continuing to allow this to happen.”Speaking in the same week that a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio, was cleared by a grand jury over the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy who was carrying a toy gun, Packnett said the criminal justice system was presenting “no deterrent” to the excessive use of deadly force by police. “Tamir didn’t even live to be 15,” she said.
Protests accusing law enforcement officers of being too quick to use lethal force against unarmed African Americans have spread across the country in the 16 months since dramatic unrest gripped Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white officer.Overall in 2015, black people were killed at twice the rate of white, Hispanic and native Americans. About 25% of the African Americans killed were unarmed, compared with 17% of white people. This disparity has narrowed since the database was first published on 1 June, at which point black people killed were found to be twice as likely to not have a weapon.
The Guardian’s investigation, titled The Counted, began in response to widespread concern about the federal government’s failure to keep any comprehensive record of people killed by police. Officials at the US Department of Justice have since begun testing a database that attempts to do so, directly drawing on The Counted’s data and methodology.The FBI also announced plans to overhaul its own count of homicides by police, which has been discredited by its reliance on the voluntary submission of data from a fraction of the country’s 18,000 police departments. The Guardian’s total for 2015 was more than two and a half times greater than the 444 “justifiable homicides” logged by the FBI last year.
The FBI director, James Comey, said in October it was “embarrassing and ridiculous” that the government did not hold comprehensive statistics, and that it was “unacceptable” the Guardian and the Washington Post, which began publishing a database of fatal police shootings on 1 July, held better records. The Counted will continue into 2016.
Data collected by the Guardian this year highlighted the wide range of situations encountered by police officers across the US. Of the 1,134 people killed, about one in five were unarmed but another one in five fired shots of their own at officers before being killed. At least six innocent bystanders were killed by officers during violent incidents; eight police officers were killed by people who subsequently died and appeared in the database.More than 21% of deadly incidents began with a complaint to police alleging domestic violence or some other domestic disturbance. About 16% arose from officers attempting to arrest a wanted person, execute a warrant or apprehend a fugitive. Another 14% of killings followed an attempted traffic or street stop, 13% came after someone committed a violent crime and 7% after a non-violent crime.
In addition to those killed after opening fire, 160 people were accused of refusing commands to drop a weapon. Another 157 were said to have pointed or levelled a gun or non-lethal gun at officers. Police alleged that 158 people killed had “charged”, advanced at or fought with officers. And while 79 people were killed after allegedly “reaching for their waistband” or grabbing for a weapon, 44 attacked officers, some with knives and blades.“It would appear that police officers are often confronting people who are armed, non-compliant and threatening,” said David Klinger an associate professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St Louis.
The extensive demographic detail gathered as part of the study also shed light on the diverse set of people who died during confrontations with law enforcement. The group ranged in age from six-year-old Jeremy Mardis, in Marksville, Louisiana, to 87-year-old Louis Becker in Catskill, New York. Officers killed 43 people who were 18 years old and younger.Mental health crises contributed directly to dozens of police-involved deaths. In at least 92 cases that led to fatalities this year, police had been alerted over a suicidal person or someone who was harming him- or herself. In 28 other deadly incidents, relatives or associates later said that the person killed had been suicidal before they died.
Of 29 military veterans who were killed by police in 2015, at least eight were said to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following their service. In all, mental health issues were reported in relation to 246 people killed by police this year – more than one in every five cases. On at least eight occasions, the death was officially ruled a suicide, prompting claims from relatives that officers were escaping scrutiny.
“We have a tremendous problem,” said Dr Daniel Reidenberg, the managing director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention. “In a society where firearms are as prevalent as they are, and where people know law enforcement are trained to respond to a certain situation in a certain way, we have a problem.”Regional disparities also emerged from the year’s data. Earlier this month, the Guardian published a series of special reports on Kern County, California, where police killed more people relative to the size of its population than anywhere else in the country. Law enforcement officers there killed more people in 2015 than the NYPD, which has 23 times as many officers policing a population 10 times as big.
Following a spate of killings in recent weeks, New Mexico’s 21 deaths in 2015 represented the highest per-capita rate of any state. New Mexico’s rate of one killing by police for every 99,300 residents was more than 10 times greater than that of Rhode Island, where only one person among a population of more than a million was killed by law enforcement.The death of Kenneth Stephens, 56, in Burlington, Vermont, last week meant that all 50 states and the District of Columbia had at least one death caused by police in 2015.
Only one of the 21 people killed by police in New Mexico, however, was unarmed. By contrast nine of the 25 people killed in New York state were unarmed, and seven of these were black men. While five of Georgia’s 38 deaths followed a suspect being shocked with a Taser – the highest proportion in the country – no Taser-involved deaths were recorded in more than half a dozen states.