Efforts by the Justice Department under President Barack Obama to improve accountability are likely to be dashed under Trump administration.
Despite the protests, media scrutiny, and all around heightened national attention, young black men in 2016 continued to be the predominant victims of police violence in the United States.
According to year-end figures published Sunday by the Guardian database The Counted, “[b]lack males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers last year,” and were “killed at four times the rate of young white men.”
Overall, the number police killings fell slightly—1,091 last year, according to the Guardian tally, from 1,146 in 2015—but the pattern of brutality has remained consistent.
Of those, “officers were charged with crimes in relation to 18 deaths from 2016, along with several others from the previous year,” the report noted. “These charges included the arrests of officers involved in the high-profile killings of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Philando Castile near St Paul, Minnesota.”
Following another troubling trend, many fatalities occurred when police were called in to help deescalate a conflict or situation.
“One in every five people killed by police in 2016 was mentally ill or in the midst of a mental health crisis when they were killed,” the Guardian reported, and the same percentage of deaths “started with calls reporting domestic violence or some other domestic disturbance.”
Further, almost 29 percent “developed from police trying to pull over a vehicle or approaching someone in public, including some potential suspects for crimes.”
The newspaper notes that their total “is again more than twice the FBI’s annual number of “justifiable homicides” by police, counted in recent years under a voluntary system allowing police to opt out of submitting details of fatal incidents.”
With a dearth of public accountability for such incidents, media efforts like The Counted and one by the Washington Post, have attempted to fill that void. But, as the Guardian observed, efforts by the Justice Department under President Barack Obama to improve its system are likely to be dashed with the incoming Trump administration.
Particularly concerning for many is the president-elect’s nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general, which both the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have vowed to fight.
An analysis published this week by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law highlighted Session’s regressive stance on criminal justice reform as well as his deep skepticism of federal involvement in state and local affairs, including policing. “As Attorney General, he could end or significantly curtail these investigations,” the Center noted.
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