385+ killed by cops in 2015
NYPD officers (Bill Moore/New York Amsterdam News)
By Herb Boyd, From the New York Amsterdam News
Over Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, 56 people were shot, 12 of them fatally. These numbers leaped from a story about the controversy surrounding Chiraq, the title of Spike Lee’s new film. Many residents are upset by the title that blends Chicago with Iraq, thereby suggesting the city of Chicago and the country of Iraq share a similar level of violent deaths. Supporters of the film believe that rather than feel outrage over the film, residents should be outraged over the reality of the fatalities in Chicago.
Another set of numbers that grab your attention is from a recent study by the Washington Post that reports the police, nationwide, have killed 385 people during the first five months of this year—more than two a day, the Post said.
“About half the victims were white, half minority,” the report stated. “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 situation in Chicago and the report from the Post probably did not escape the Rev. Al Sharpton during his speech last Friday at the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleve-land. Introduced as one of “God’s trombones,” Sharpton warmed to his topic in a hurry, stitching his narrative to the upcoming 2016 election before dealing with the pressing issue of police misconduct and the mounting number of unarmed Black men killed by the police.
Sharpton said he had come at the request of family members of several recent victims of police shootings, including family members of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was shot and killed by the police, an incident still under investigation, and of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, two other victims of police violence whose names are invoked at the marches and rallies.
In fulfilling that request, Sharpton said, “If it takes all the breath in my body, they will never stand alone, and we will not be quiet.” According to The Guardian newspaper of London, Sharpton said he had not come to Cleveland for a “Black on Black fight,” but there were “bigger fish to fry.”
His appearance in Cleveland was timely from a national standpoint because CBS’s 60 Minutes featured a segment on Cleveland, with a special report on the death of Tanisha Ander-son, who was killed by the police 10 days before Rice was shot and killed.
Anderson, according to what her brother Joell told the press, had a mental breakdown on the evening of Nov. 12, and the family called 911. But instead of an ambulance, the police showed up. Upon being escorted to a patrol car, Anderson became disoriented, and when she demonstrated some reluctance, she was taken down in a “judo” hold. Her head hit the concrete pavement and another officer placed his knee on her back. She was then forcibly thrown in the backseat of the police car with the officers still holding her down, practically smothering her, her brother said. Ander-son never opened her eyes again or spoke another word.
If Sharpton addressed this issue, it wasn’t reported, although he did briefly mention Officer Michael Brelo, who fired 49 of 137 police shots at Williams and Russell at the end of a car chase. Brelo, who leaped onto the car’s hood and unleashed 15 of his shots into the wind-shield, was acquitted on two counts of voluntary man-slaughter.
The Post’s report notes that the police are authorized to use deadly force only when they fear for their lives or the lives of others. “So far,” it was reported, “just three of the 385 fatal shootings have resulted in an officer being charged with a crime—less than 1 percent. The low rate mirrors the findings of a Post investigation in April that found that of thousands of fatal police shootings over the past decade, only 54 had produced criminal charges. Typically, those cases involved layers of damning evidence challenging the officer’s account. Of the cases resolved, most officers were cleared or acquitted.”