A new study has shown that despite the ongoing pandemic, there has not been a significant decrease in fatal police shootings.
According to NBC News, a report by the ACLU titled “The Other Epidemic: Fatal Police Shootings in the Time of COVID-19,” shows that through June of this year there had been 511 fatal police shootings, an increase from 484 shootings at the same time last year. “Because of stay-at-home orders, social distancing requirements, and police department policies advising officers to initiate fewer investigative contacts, we might have expected fewer fatal police shootings in 2020 relative to years past,” the report states.
Instead, the study “found that despite COVID-19, the rate of fatal police shootings has remained the same nationally. In some states, the rate has even increased.” The ACLU based its report on data analyzed from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Researchers found that from 2015–2019, there was an average of 19.4 shootings per week during the first 27 weeks of the year. Through that same course of time in 2020, the average remained the same, meaning that COVID-19 has had virtually no effect on the rate of police shootings.
“We want to express alarm that even when the nation was on lockdown during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic ... that didn’t stop police fatally shooting people at the same rate,” Udi Ofer, the director of the ACLU’s Justice Division, told NBC News. The study did find that following the killing of George Floyd in May, there was a decrease in police shootings.
From the ACLU:
Between late May, when Minneapolis police killed George Floyd and communities in cities and towns across the country took to the streets to demand not just justice but radical and transformative change, and the release of this report, fatal police shootings appear to have dropped precipitously.
In the four weeks leading up to Floyd’s killing, there were 27, 20, 22, and 25 fatal shootings, respectively (average = 23.5). The previous five-year average during this four-week period was 17.3. Following Floyd’s death and the worldwide protests in the weeks that followed, it appears that fatal police shootings may have slowed (see Figure 3). There have been 17 or fewer fatal police shootings per week each of the last five weeks. This occurred only three times during the first 22 weeks of 2020.
Researchers noted that they couldn’t draw any notable conclusions with this data given the relatively short period of time that’s gone by since Floyd died. They emphasized the importance of continuing to track the number of police shootings to see if the ongoing protests and demands for police reform had any tangible effect on reducing the rate of fatal shootings.
Additionally, the study found that Black, Latinx and Indigenous people still make up a disproportionate amount of those fatally shot by police. Black people made up 24 percent of the 5,442 people killed by police from 2015–2020, despite only making up about 13 percent of the U.S. population. In 2019, Black people were about three times more likely to be shot by police than White people.
“Whether crime is up or down, whether we’re in a pandemic or not, police continue to kill people,” Ofer told NBC News.
The study recommended that cities reform their use of force protocols, end the militarization of the police, abolish qualified immunity, and remove police from non-serious offenses such as traffic stops. The study also recommended that an alternative response force be created to handle people suffering from a mental health crisis. “These measures can lead to a reduction in police interactions, and in turn, help put an end to racist police violence,” the report states.