COVID-19 Has Done Nothing to Stop Fatal Police Shootings, Study Finds

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The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 172,000 Americans, and led to state-issued stay-at-home orders and moves to social distance to stop the spread of the virus. But a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) shows that the deadly virus isn’t the only thing killing Americans during the pandemic: police are too.

The new report, called “The Other Epidemic: Fatal Police Shootings in the Time of COVID-19,” reveals that the virus has done nothing to stop police from killing Americans. The report aimed to analyze whether the pandemic led to a reduction in police killings.

Instead, the ACLU discovered nothing has changed while the nation battles COVID-19. In fact, the number of fatal shootings in the first half of 2020 have been consistent with past years, the report found.

During the first six months of 2020, police officers have fatally shot 511 people. This rate is similar to those seen in the last five years, the ACLU’s report revealed. The study stated that from 2015 to 2019, an average of 19.4 fatal police shootings happened per week in the first half of each year. There was also an average of 19.4 killings per week for the first half of 2020.

“The findings of this report show that police violence in our country is not situational, but rather endemic to our country’s policing institution. Despite a once in a lifetime public health crisis that has upended societal norms and caused a decrease in physical interaction, police still manage to kill people at the same rate as before the outbreak of COVID-19,” Paige Fernandez, policy advisor at the ACLU, said in a statement to The North Star.

According to the ACLU’s report the actual number of people police in the United States kill is unknown because that information is not tracked, reported, collected to analyzed in a systematic way. The report noted that at a minimum, police are known to kill more than 1,000 people each year.

What is known is that police violence disproportionately affects and targets Black Americans. Police are not only more likely to arrest and jail Black people than they are white people, they are also more likely to shoot and kill Black people. The ACLU’s report pointed out that studies have shown that young unarmed male victims of deadly force by police are 13 times more likely to be Black than white.

From January 1, 2015, to June 30, 2020, 45.8 percent of those fatally shot by police were white, who account for 60.1 percent of the population. Meanwhile, Black people (12.5 percent of the population) comprised 23.9 percent of the people killed by police.

“In order to address the tide of police violence that continues in Black and Brown communities despite a global pandemic, we must transform policing in this country by dramatically reducing police departments’ role, responsibilities, power, and funding,” Fernandez added. “Only then can we truly eliminate unnecessary interactions between the police and community members, thereby reducing violence and deaths.”

The suggestion that police be defunded has gained traction around the country. Politicians, activists and communities across the U.S. have called for their police departments to be defunded and for that money to be redirected to social services that better serve their communities.

The push to defund the police has already led to budget cuts in New York, Los Angeles and Austin. While in Minneapolis, the public school system unanimously voted to end its contract with the city’s police department.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.