Killings By Police Spike In 2017

This Saturday, a man threatening police with a pipe was shot and killed at a busy L.A. intersection. Witnesses say that 25-year-old Dave Phoenix appeared to be either drunk or suffering from some sort of mental illness. Last week in Sacramento, three officers all failed to turn on their body cameras before they shot and killed a suspect armed with a pellet gun.

Those are just two of the 225 people killed by police in the United States so far in 2017. In fact, according to killedbypolice.net, a website that tracks deaths at the hands of law enforcement, the first two months of 2017 were deadlier for the public than any month in 2016, with officers killing 3.6 people per day, on average, so far this year. In February, 112 died during interactions with the police, while January saw 103 people killed. Just a few days into March, ten people—including Dave Phoenix in L.A.—are already dead.

Anti-violence activists blame the constant coverage of Donald Trump for burying the news. “I’d be hard-pressed to find a single person in this country,” Shaun King wrote in the New York Daily News earlier this year, “outside of a few activists and the families who were affected by this violence, who knows the names and details of a single person killed by American police last month.”

But lack of media coverage isn’t the only problem. There’s also the very real concern that investigations into these officer-involved shootings will slow or stop under a Jeff Sessions-led Department of Justice.


During his confirmation hearings, Sessions said, “I think there’s concern that good police officers and good departments can be sued by the Department of Justice when you just have individuals within a department who have done wrong… These lawsuits undermine the respect for police officers and create an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness.”

Reportedly, Sessions only read a summary of the DOJ report on the Chicago police department issued by the outgoing Obama administration. The report cited widespread civil rights abuses and racial profiling and recommended department reform. Speaking to reporters in late February, Sessions characterized the Chicago report as well as a similar report on Ferguson, Missouri’s police department, as “pretty anecdotal and not so scientifically based.”

Last week, Sessions (currently under fire for his contacts with Russian officials during ahead of the general election), blamed the rise of violent crime in cities like Baltimore and Chicago on a lack of respect for police. “Where you see the greatest increase in violence and murders in cities is somehow, some way, [where] we undermined the respect for our police and made, oftentimes, their job more difficult.”

A rise in police-related deaths, a lack of media attention to anything other than Trump and a DoJ and President that seem to think police can do no harm? Oof. Sounds like a recipe for disaster and even more tragedy and a powder keg for street action waiting to explode.

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