When Cops Commit Crimes

Inside the first database that tracks America’s criminal cops Twelve years ago, a criminal justice master’s student named Philip Stinson got into an argument with his grad school classmates about how often police officers committed crimes. His peers, many of whom were cops themselves, thought police crime was rare, but Stinson, himself a former cop and attorney, thought the problem was bigger than anyone knew. He bet a pint of ale that he could prove it. On Tuesday, Stinson made good on his … [Read more...]

Number of Fatal Shootings by Police Nearly Identical to Last Year

Police nationwide shot and killed 492 people in the first six months of this year, a number nearly identical to the count for the same period in each of the prior two years. Fatal shootings by police in 2017 have so closely tracked last year’s numbers that on June 16, the tally was the same. Although the number of unarmed people killed by police dropped slightly, the overall pace for 2017 through Friday was on track to approach 1,000 killed for a third year in a row. The Washington Post … [Read more...]

Is a Police Shooting a Crime? It Depends on the Officer’s Point of View

The black teenager had just reached into his waistband for what the New York City police officer assumed was a gun. As the officer, Richard Haste, later told a Bronx grand jury, he thought he was about to die. In that instant, Officer Haste pictured Thanksgiving, with everyone gathered around, except him. He imagined his girlfriend walking their dog, without him, according to an account of the officer’s testimony provided by his lawyer, Stuart London. Officer Haste fired a single … [Read more...]

Police Try to Lower Racial Bias, but Under Pressure, It Isn’t So Easy

The recent string of racially charged police shootings, and the deadly response on Thursday in Dallas, have come despite efforts by police departments across the United States to train officers to recognize and reduce the effects of racial stereotypes in potentially violent situations. Whether these bias reduction programs can lead to lasting change in policing is an unanswered question. Their effect on split-second decision making is extremely hard to measure — and experts say some programs … [Read more...]

In Grief and Rage, Finding a Way Forward?

Even as we remain stunned by the events of last week, we at Justice Not Jails are deeply concerned that people who were never remotely sympathetic to the reality of abusive policing will now pounce on the tragic news from Dallas as justification for resisting legitimate efforts to reform policing practices and end the horrific ongoing mass criminalization of people of color. Rather than feature any "breaking news" items this week, we present five sobering reports on how much challenging work … [Read more...]

Why Are Fatal Police Shootings Up in 2016?

As the use of deadly force by police once again roils the nation, the number of fatal shootings by officers increased from 465 in the first six months of last year to 491 for the same period this year, according to an ongoing two-year study by The Washington Post. This year has also seen more officers shot and killed in the line of duty and more officers prosecuted for questionable shootings. Two years after a white police officer fatally shot a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., the pace of … [Read more...]

Another Dimension to “Black Lives Matter”

The Washington Post’s landmark survey of police shootings in 2015 found that around twice as many people were shot to death by police than others, including this author, had estimated from FBI and public health sources. In a large majority of deadly police shootings, officers killed suspects armed with lethal weapons; none of those shootings appear to be controversial. The controversy over possibly unjustified police shootings surrounds the fewer than one in 10 instances in which unarmed … [Read more...]

A Disproportionate Number of Black Victims in Fatal Traffic Stops

Darrius Stewart was riding around with friends one night in July, sitting in the back seat of their faded blue Chevy Malibu, when a Memphis police officer noticed a missing headlight and signaled for them to stop. The officer, Connor Schilling, asked everyone for identification, found two out-of-state warrants for Stewart, 19, and pulled him out of the car. A half-hour later, Stewart was dead. Stewart was one of more than 100 people shot and killed by police after a traffic stop this year, … [Read more...]

When Will the North Face Its Racism?

View image | gettyimages.com he groundswell of protests over police brutality in the closing days of 2014, when people dropped to the marble floor of Grand Central Terminal and shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, blocked Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and chanted “I Can’t Breathe” from Boston to Oakland, summoned ghosts not only of the marches of the civil rights era but of the larger forces that led to the arrival of so many African-Americans in the big cities of the North and West in the first … [Read more...]

Is It Bad Enough Yet?

View image | gettyimages.com he police killing unarmed civilians. Horrifying income inequality. Rotting infrastructure and an unsafe “safety net.” An inability to respond to climate, public health and environmental threats. A food system that causes disease. An occasionally dysfunctional and even cruel government. A sizable segment of the population excluded from work and subject to near-random incarceration. You get it: This is the United States, which, with the incoming Congress, might … [Read more...]