It seems that we often hear stories about how people die at the hands of the police. According to a report by The Guardian newspaper, 1,000 people were killed that way in 2015. And it seems like there are no signs that this problem will go away.
The British media outlet has compiled a database of such events called The Counted. At the time of writing, 325 people died at the hands of the police in the USA this year alone.
Wrongful death: a growing problem?
There has been plenty of controversial stories in the media about how people die at the hands of the police. What’s shocking is that many of them lose their lives in a variety of ways. Gunshot wounds are still the primary cause of death. But, what’s concerning is many people die while getting tasered or even when in custody.
The U.S. doesn’t publish an official record of such deaths. Still, if The Guardian’s death count is anything to go by, the problem is growing. See http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database for current data.
Why do such wrongful deaths occur?
As sad as it sounds, it’s likely that many of the deaths are racially-motivated. The data compiled in The Counted shows one interesting statistics. African-Americans are twice as likely unarmed during their wrongful deaths than white Americans.
Or, to put it another way, 32% as opposed to 15%. Tragic events such as the Ferguson unrest in Missouri have put this sorry tale in the limelight.
When looking at http://budgeandheipt.com/practice-areas/wrongful-death-by-police/, one thing becomes apparent. When lawyers deal with wrongful death by police cases, the bulk is down to police brutality.
Law enforcement officials undergo plenty of training to ensure they handle situations the correctly. But, it seems that perhaps a growing minority don’t follow the letter of the law.
Going back to the Ferguson saga, the Dept. of Justice conducted an investigation into the policing practices of the Ferguson Police Department. They discovered that the FPD discriminated against African-Americans and applying racial stereotypes. So, it would seem that race is a big part of the problem.
Of course, race isn’t the only motivator behind wrongful deaths caused by the police. Some officers feel that brutality is necessary to get suspects to cooperate with them. Regardless of their color.
What can get done to improve the situation?
Researching the topics of police brutality and wrongful death is a time-consuming exercise. But, looking at just a handful of those cases, it’s clear some measures need to get put in place.
The first is to hold police departments more accountable for their actions. Officers should get scrutinized for their handling of suspects. There is still a culture of “turning a blind eye” towards such behavior.
Another is to improve police training at a national level. Officers should undergo more tests to determine how they deal with varying situations. It seems that many cases of wrongful death occur out of impulse.
If The Guardian’s database is anything to go by, wrongful deaths by the police is a growing issue. And it’s one that won’t go away unless major changes get made.