George Floyd’s murder does not change the statistics of deaths at the hands of the police | International


Police take cover from protesters after an officer shot and killed a black man at the Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Police take cover from protesters after an officer shot and killed a black man at the Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.KEREM YUCEL (AFP)

If one of the news in 2020 in the United States was the murder of George Floyd, one of the news in 2021 has been the sentence to 22 and a half years in prison for the former agent responsible for the death of the African American. However, neither the largest racial protests in half a century nor the legislative protests in large cities have managed to change the violent scenario: the number of homicides perpetrated by police officers has remained practically the same (about 1,100 a year) and racial disparities continue: The chances of a black being killed by the police are almost three times that of a white, according to the Mapping Police Violence organization.

This week, in the same Minneapolis courtroom where former agent Derek Chauvin heard his sentence for Floyd’s murder, former agent Kim Potter was found guilty of the murder of a 20-year-old African-American. Potter mistakenly drew his firearm instead of his stun gun during a police check in which he shot and killed Daunte Wright. The sentence will be known in February. The two media cases may contribute to the idea that the justice that the streets clamored for so much during the summer of 2020 has reached the judicial system, but the full photograph reflects a different reality, closer to the one before Floyd’s death.

Since Floyd’s death, 1,646 people have been killed by the police. It is impossible to know if all these shootings were justified because in most cases the responsible agent does not come to court despite the demands of the family of the deceased. Factors such as the lack of witnesses on the scene and the unrestricted support of the police unions make judicial processes difficult. In addition, experts explain that the benefit of the doubt is generally given to agents who must make life-and-death decisions in just an instant.

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President Joe Biden had committed to reform to increase police accountability and combat racial bias. The George Floyd bill was passed in March in the House of Representatives, but it did not get to be voted on in the Senate, where Democrats needed 60 votes to pass it, and they only have 50 of the 100 seats. Thus, the law that sought to create a record of police misconduct or to prohibit certain arrest techniques, came to a standstill after the failure of negotiations with the Republicans. Restrictions on the lethal use of force and the end of “qualified immunity”, which protects officers from civil liability in court, were some of the stopping stones.

In the past 15 years, 139 police officers have been arrested for murder or manslaughter due to an on-duty shooting, according to an investigation by Bowling Green State University Professor of Criminal Law Philip M. Stinson. Last year, 16 police officers were charged with manslaughter, the highest number since Stinson began compiling the data, which shows that the annual average number of shot dead by police is more than 1,000 annually.

Since Stinson tracked down, Chauvin became the second officer to end up behind bars for a crime during a police action in Minneapolis, and Potter the first female police officer convicted of manslaughter. Considering that each year around 1,000 fatal shootings perpetrated by the police are reported, the arrest rate does not exceed 2%.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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