Local News

More than 100 people killed by police across US during three weeks of Chauvin trial

Posted April 20, 2021 6:52 p.m. EDT
Updated April 21, 2021 7:23 p.m. EDT

A hang-up phone call to 911 prompted Person County Sheriff’s deputies to dispatch to a home in Hurdle Mills on April 2. When they arrived, police came upon a hostage situation underway, according to law enforcement members. Shots were exchanged, and 58-year-old Jackie Cameron Capps Jr. was shot dead.

That incident in central North Carolina is one of dozens that have happened since the beginning of Derek Chauvin’s trial on March 29.

"One case - that's one too many," said Dr. Hunter Boehme, a criminologist and assistant professor at North Carolina Central University.

There are many cases. On average over the last five years, three people have died every day at the hands of police.

In the 22 days between the start of the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer and his conviction, 103 people were shot and killed by law enforcement, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

That’s more than four people a day.

Very few officers wind up as defendants

Chauvin is the first white police officer in Minnesota convicted of killing a Black citizen. Officers are often cleared of wrongdoing because the use of force is found to be justified. Data shows only 1.1% of police involved in these killings will ever be charged with murder or manslaughter.

Securing a conviction is even less common. Research from Bowling Green University shows only 44 police officers were convicted of murder or manslaughter for charges they faced following on-duty shootings between 2005 and 2021; only seven were convicted of murder, the more serious charge.

Throughout that period, between 900 and 1,100 people were killed by law enforcement annually, research from the university and Mapping Police Violence shows.

Despite increasing technology and calls for accountability, little has changed and the numbers have remained consistent.

"Community policing - we have to strive for it," said Boehme. "We have to develop better relationships. But all those efforts can really go awash when a video [like the] George Floyd [one] emerges."

Some European countries' police officers have killed around a handful of people since the early 2000s, while law enforcement in the U.S. has killed around 15,000 since over the same time frame. Boehme believes the number of guns in America contributes to the higher number of police shootings.

"I think that plays a large role in creating a culture for the citizens but more of the response culture from the police," said Boehme. "There's 100 million homes with a gun. [Knowing they could be] going into a home there, they might face a gun."

People of color experience more force, survey shows

People of color are less likely than white people to call the police when they want to report a crime or need help, federal data shows. The same data – a survey from the Bureau of Justice – reports Black and Hispanic people are upwards of 2 times more likely to experience use of force by police than white people and, if force is used, people of color are more likely to perceive it as excessive.

"Specifically, certain populations are more likely to be targeted," Boehme told WRAL News. "I think within that subsumed when there's more targeting of certain communities, there's more interactions. And by the sheer fact of more interactions, there's more likely to be escalation."

While, combined, Black and Hispanic people make up around 32% of the country’s population, they’ve accounted for over half of those who have been killed by police since the Chauvin trial began last month.

The Mapping Police Violence database shows there have been three days since the beginning of this year where police didn’t kill anyone. None of those occurred since the beginning of Chauvin’s trial.

Reform in the way of restructuring

Boehme supports peaceful protesting as a way to achieve reform. The researcher says it creates conversations and draws attention to issues.

He believes restructuring and reallocating police duties are necessary.

"Having police do what they're really trained to do – fight crime, investigate, and, most importantly, be a community leader or be a community advocate – that's what I have in mind when it comes to this reallocation.

"If anything, reform the idea to where you're having police officers who are more specialized in what they do, do what they do, and having community leaders and partnerships with police officers."

He is currently working to implement a grassroots community police relationship model. The idea is that citizens are in charge and police work in the background instead of residents bringing up program ideas and police implementing them.

"There are a lot of resources out there in Durham but some people don't always know that they're available," said Boehme. "Creating that communication and having community where it's ran by the community and where the police are secondary."

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