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US Police Are Killing More Than Two People A Day

US Police Are Killing More Than Two People A Day

A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during Ferguson protests. Credit:  Whitney Curtis/The New York Times
A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during Ferguson protests. Credit: Whitney Curtis/The New York Times

At least two people are killed by US police every day, revealed an extensive report and investigation by the Washington Post.

According to the report, 385 people, more than two a day, have been shot and killed by police across the US during the first five months of 2015.

The analysis by the Washington Post added that this year’s rate is “more than twice the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government over the past decade.”

The revelations come amid debate in the US about police brutality, especially in the relation to African-Americans.

The #BlackLivesMatter campaign, which has caught the attention of the media in the US and across the globe, was launched after a series of high profile cases involving the killings of unarmed black civilians by police officers.

Protests across the US in solidarity with black lives had also made headlines. The latest major protests were held in Baltimore after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. During the protests, 486 people were arrested and a state of emergency, including a curfew, were declared for a week.

The Washington Post analysis found that while about half the victims were white and half were from a minority background, the demographics were disproportionate among unarmed victims. Two-thirds of unarmed victims were black or Hispanic.

The report further found that black people were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when the findings were adjusted for local population.

In the US, police officers are permitted to use lethal force if they fear it is necessary to protect their lives or the lives of others. The report found that the vast majority of victims in 2015 were armed with potentially lethal objects such as guns, knives, machetes, vehicles and more. Meanwhile, 49 of those killed had no weapons at all, 13 of which were killed for holding toys that were presumed to be guns.

The Washington Post’s report also revealed that eight of the victims were children under the age of 18.

Meanwhile, 92 victims were identified by police of family members as mentally ill. In one incident, a 25-year-old diagnosed schizophrenic, Lavall Hall, was shot dead after police officers failed to stun him with a Taser gun. The Washington Post reports the man, who was 5-foot-4 and weighed 120 pounds was waving a broomstick at the officers. Police had been called when his mother was unable to persuade him to come inside.

More harrowingly, the Washington Post reported, is that at the current pace, police will have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people by the end of 2015. According to FBI records since 2008, “only about 400 police shootings a year – an average of 1.1 deaths per day” had occurred.

Police shootings continue to be debated in the US, with proposals to ensure all police officers wear body cameras. However, the Washington Post said that it remains important to track the number of police shootings, which at the moment are only self-reported.

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