The false narrative regarding police misconduct never seems to end. For the last few years, the debate over police brutality has raged. Black Lives Matter and other activists have become instrumental in spreading the false narrative that most police officers are racists who routinely abuse their power to oppress black people.
These groups portray police officers as vicious bullies who regularly slaughter black people without reason. Their platform is predicated on the lie that most police shootings are the result of misconduct and racism. On Thursday, March 2nd, “civil rights activist” Shaun King posted the following on his Facebook page:
BREAKING: With 111 people killed by American police last month, it was the deadliest February ever measured for police brutality.
And who is to blame for this increase in police shootings? President Trump, obviously. Try not to be too shocked. King also wrote:
In Trump’s America, police departments have already been told by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that they will not be prosecuted. I believe it is directly responsible for this spike.
According to King, the rise in police shootings are the direct result of President Donald Trump’s election. The police shootings that occurred in February are examples of blatant police brutality. But is this true? Liberty Nation decided this was worthy of an investigation.
The website, killedbypolice.net documents police shootings nationwide. Its Facebook page regularly posts updates whenever an officer-involved shooting is reported in the news media. On their website, they provide a list of every news story that reports deaths resulting from the actions of the police.
In February, there were one hundred and twelve incidents, not one hundred and eleven. Liberty Nation examined each story listed on the website. The results fall into three categories:
- Justified shooting: The officer had a reasonable concern for their safety. This means that the suspect threatened or attacked the police officer.
- Not enough details: The news report did not provide sufficient detail to make a determination.
- Accident: The police officer was involved in an accident that resulted in death.
According to our findings, Shaun King’s assertion that the shootings in February constituted police brutality, is patently false. Here are the results:
- 83% of the incidents were justified shootings.
- 15% of reports did not have adequate information to make a determination.
- 2% were accidental deaths.
The incidents resulting in justified shootings vary. In some cases, the suspects attempted to run over police officers with their vehicles. In others, the suspects attacked officers with a knife. Some suspects refused to drop their guns when confronted by the officers. In many these incidents, the suspect had taken hostages or already attacked another person. In some cases, the suspect died after being tasered during the altercation with police officers.
There were two situations where the suspect pointed a replica gun at the officers. These replicas are designed to resemble real weapons. From a distance, a replica and a real gun are indistinguishable. Finally, two of the incidents were the result of car accidents that did not involve a suspect in a crime.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Supreme Court found that there are two types of situations when deadly force is authorized:
In Tennessee vs. Garner in 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an officer cannot use deadly force against a fleeing suspect unless the suspect is a significant threat to the officer or to others.
Four years later, the Supreme Court ruled in Graham vs. Connor that officers who use force must be judged on the totality of circumstances and a standard of “objective reasonableness.” Force “must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight,” the court said.
So, what about race? It is the contention of Black Lives Matter and other groups that bigotry and racial profiling are the impetus behind police shootings. Liberty Nation also looked at the racial makeup of the people who were killed in these incidents. In many cases, the news reports did not reveal the race of the suspect. However, the race was reported in eighty on of the one hundred and twelve events.
- 52% were white.
- 36% were black.
- 12% were Latino.
Historically, whites tend to make up the majority of suspects who are shot by the police. Political commentator and journalist Heather MacDonald breaks down the numbers in a piece for the Washington Post in 2016. She writes:
In fact, as of July 9, whites were 54 percent of the 440 police shooting victims this year whose race was known, blacks were 28 percent and Hispanics were 18 percent, according to The Washington Post’s ongoing database of fatal police shootings. Those ratios are similar to last year’s tally, in which whites made up 50 percent of the 987 fatal police shootings, and blacks, 26 percent. (The clear majority of those police homicide victims were armed or otherwise threatening the officer.
The facts do not support Shaun King’s assertion that the shootings that occurred in February were examples of police brutality. Additionally, these shootings did not appear to be motivated by race.
In a piece written for the New York Daily News, Shaun King argues:
Trump’s first month in office ended with at least 105 people killed by American police. That’s the highest number of people killed by American police in any one month since 2015. And because Trump’s claiming jobs gained for January, and because the major police unions all endorsed Trump, I’m going to go ahead and place this number squarely on his desk.
King regularly assumes that all deaths at the hands of the police are unjustified. However, most of these shootings are the result of threatening actions on the part of the suspect. These are not all unarmed shootings of black men and women.
King’s misleading statements only serve to fuel anger and distrust between black Americans and the police. They are not productive. If we are going to deal with real police brutality, we must have an honest dialogue about the issue. Making sweeping accusations of racism and misconduct do nothing to move the conversation forward.
The reality is that most police officers wish to fulfill their oath to protect and serve. They are not interested in victimizing black people or any other minority group. When there is an instance of police brutality, it should be called out and appropriate action should be taken — but we should not demonize the majority of police officers for the actions of the few.
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