Protestors have demanded an end to police brutality and justice for the black community in 75 cities across the country, according to the New York Times. The protests were catalyzed by the death of George Floyd, a black man murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis on Monday. Mayors in over 24 cities have imposed curfews in an effort to quell the protests. President Trump has reacted to the protests by calling on mayors to leverage the National Guard, in an effort to further militarize law enforcement. The National Guard has been activated in 11 states so far.
Police brutality has long been an issue in the U.S. Every year, over one thousand people are killed by police officers in the U.S., according to Campaign Zero, a nonprofit dedicated towards completely eradicating police violence. According to Statista, 228 civilians have been shot to death by the police. These murders could have been avoided, given that almost 60% of victims did not have a gun, according to Campaign Zero.
This violence is disproportionately experienced by African Americans. Black people in the U.S. are two and half times more likely than white Americans to be killed by the police, according to Al Jazeera.A study also found that 1 in 1,000 black men will be murdered by a police officer. The high mortality rate makes it the leading cause of death for young black men in America. The second closest cause of death are accidents. The risk of murder by a police officer falls for older black male populations.
“That 1-in-1,000 number struck us as quite high,” said study leader Frank Edwards, a sociologist at Rutgers University. “That’s better odds of being killed by police than you have of winning a lot of scratch-off lottery games.”
The risk of experiencing police violence that African Americans face differs from state to state. For example, African Americans make up 1.06% of Utah’s population but make up 10% of those killed by the police in the state between 2013 and 2019. In Washington, African Americans make up 3.57% of the population but account for 11% of murder victims from police killings during the same period of time.
Achieving justice and ending police violence means defunding the police. There have been a range of solutions implemented through different local governments aimed at neutralizing law enforcement. In Eugene, Oregon, police officers are no longer first responders to mental health crises, according to the Wall Street Journal. Instead, social workers, mental health professional and crisis counselors are trained to be first responders through an intervention called the CAHOOTS model.
In 2017, those trained through the CAHOOTS model took on 17% of the 96,115 calls made to the police in Eugene. The program employs 39 individuals and costs $800,000 a year, which is dwarfed by the $58 million budget allotted to Eugene’s police force. The alternative to police is needed given that police officers have responded violently to those in a mental health crises.
“They started shouting at him, they chased him and they tased him,” said Ebele Okobi. “None of that is how you interact with someone in crisis.”