By Sonali Kolhatkar
Last year was the deadliest on record for police killings in the United States. According to a Washington Post database, law enforcement officers shot and killed 1,096 people in 2022.
And that’s likely an understatement.
According to Abdul Nasser Rad, a research director at Campaign Zero, the Post “only captures incidents where a police officer discharges their firearm and the victim is killed.” This means that it wouldn’t count the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, for example, which resulted from asphyxiation.
In contrast, Campaign Zero’s Mapping Police Violence project includes any action that a law enforcement officer takes that results in a fatal encounter. Rad’s project counted 1,158 police killings in 2021 compared to 1,048 for the Post. (Final results for 2022 are not yet available.)
The upshot is that in spite of the huge public attention to police violence since 2020, police are actually killing more people than before. We can expect 2023 to be even deadlier if the years-long trend continues.
Another clear conclusion is that communities of color face a much higher risk.
According to the Washington Post, Black Americans “are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans.” Mapping Police Violence puts the figure closer to 3 times. Police killings of Latinos and Indigenous people are similarly disproportionate.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, some activists called for “defunding the police.”
They argued that over-funded police departments — which can often consume a third or more of city budgets — were using their resources to kill people. These advocates wanted to shift some of those funds to reduce poverty, improve mental health, and take other steps to make people safer.
That seemingly reasonable call was greeted with a reactionary backlash. Politicians across the spectrum, including President Joe Biden, promised to increase police funding instead. Biden even begged local governments to use federal stimulus funds to bolster their police departments in 2022.
But does giving police more money result in greater public safety?
One recent study analyzing funding for hundreds of police departments over nearly three decades concluded that “new police budget growth is likely to do one thing: increase misdemeanor arrests.”
These arrests do little to reduce violent crime. Instead, the authors explained, they lead to more police encounters that result in killings.
On the contrary, cities that took steps to reduce arrests for petty crimes saw a decrease in police killings, according to data scientist Samuel Sinyangwe, a cofounder of Campaign Zero. He also concluded that crime rates in those cities did not increase.
These issues needn’t be divisive. None of us should simply accept that police will continue to kill more and more people each year. Making sure our local budgets invest in real safety, not just deadly force, is one place to begin.
The Community Resource Hub has created a powerful internet tool, DefundPolice.org, to help communities put police spending into perspective and reimagine their city budgets. The site includes a detailed video tutorial on how to use tools like a “people’s budget calculator” to advocate for change locally.
We all want safer communities. To get them, we need to put our money toward people’s needs, not deadly deeds.
Sonali Kolhatkar is the host of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. This commentary was produced by the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and adapted for syndication by OtherWords.org.
Any concern is that if some people get their way and police forces are “defunded”, Communities of Color will find themselves at even more risk than ever before.
We need to make evaluation of fitness and PTSD monitoring a vital part of any future package of police reforms.
Samuel L. Bronkowitz says
Remember that time that black communities had armed citizens on the streets to make sure than police stops went properly, and those same citizens had kitchens to feed kids breakfasts and the police and ronald reagan got so bent out of shape over black people that he signed the Mulford Act
The existence of the Black Panthers is the only thing that ever made Republicans consider gun control.
The Geode says
What about her other THOUSANDS of “killings” that happen every. freaking. year! You are worse than Ben Crump. Life is only worth mentioning IF a “police” takes it. We don’t look at the circumstances. We don’t factor in what happened before the killing. We see a person doing a job that NONE OF YOU would even consider doing and expect everything to go well even though you KNOW the state of the people they have to encounter on a daily basis. Clearly, I am not talking about these 5 ass-hats that lacked even the basic sense of compassion or morality – I’m just glad they were all black, or else this country would have been “scorched earth” until the people that COULD do something about finally do something about it instead of ignoring it as usual. This particular “police beating/killing” will make the news cycle for about a week then vanish into thin air because it goes against a specific narrative…
Samuel L. Bronkowitz says
You are absolutely right, policing is really hard and 40 percent of people in the US think that police should get paid more. You should google “40 percent police” to read more about it
Pierre Tristam says
So 1 million contacts that involve force is OK? The “yet” of that headline, and the commenter’s assumption, are missing the point.
Concerned Citizen says
I understand that times are different now from when I worked in Law Enforcement. And for that I am grateful. Yes I realize there are bad cops out there. And there are people who do not deserve to wear the badge or carry a weapon. And when those officers commit a crime they deserve a far harsher penalty. I spent several years in IA busting dirty cops. And it was one of the hardest jobs you could have.We took an oath to do our job. And that should mean something. But I wonder how many folks are quick to judge ALL Law Enforcement over headlines?
I have sensed from time to time you have a dislike for our First Responder Community. I invite you though to do a lengthy ride along. Doesn’t even have to be Flagler or Volusia. Pick a big agency. And spend time out there. Just so you can see what they deal with day in and day out. It’s not always what you see on the Cop shows. Easy to quarterback from your own news column or chair.
Elizabeth Hartopp says
Very well said!!!
Ray W. says
Months ago, I commented about a thesis written by a law enforcement officer who was working on his master’s degree while employed by a Pennsylvania police agency. He titled it: Cynicism in Law Enforcement. He grew in his career to become the chief of police in Port Orange and, later, South Daytona. In my opinion, however limited that may be, he was an effective leader in an occupation that demands much of its leaders.
I talked with him about the subject matter at a dinner function; he then sent a copy of his thesis to me. Quite the interesting read. His general position was that there are three stages in the career of most officers. At first, they love nearly every aspect of the job. After time passes (his estimate spoken to me that evening was three to four years), officers transition to a second stage, one of anger and embitterment. Ultimately, officers usually go on to the third state, which is acceptance of the demands of the job and hope for a future of retirement. One of the several proposals listed in his thesis was that agencies should do more to promote educational achievements, such as paying tuition for a college degree, or even supporting efforts to earn master’s degrees or law degrees.
It never ceases to amaze me about stories like these. There’s never any mention of the violence directed to law enforcement by the criminals.
Simple solution if the minority community does not want the Police in their neighborhoods DONT CALL 911, call your local pastor or community activist.
Wyatt Earp syndrome is what happens when the wrong guy gets a badge and gun. It starts with treating people as sub human, degrading and mocking them, this makes us all look bad as humans.
I’m your Huckleberry .
We keep lowering the standards and expect a better outcome. SOUND FAMILIAR! https://nypost.com/2023/01/28/memphis-cops-in-tyre-nichols-murder-hired-after-pd-relaxed-job-standards/