B.Reonna Taylor was sleeping when two plainclothes police broke into her apartment after midnight in March 2020. What followed was described by police in Louisville, Kentucky, as a mission gone wrong. But the man they were looking for was not in Taylor’s apartment. Her friend fired a shot that hit one of the officers in the leg. The officers shot six times at the 26-year-old paramedic who died from her injuries. One of the officers was later charged with putting Taylor’s neighbors in danger. The police did not have to answer for the death of the African American woman. Protesters shouted Taylor’s name at countless protests in the months that followed. Taylor was one of 1,021 men and women shot by police officers in 2020 – up from 999 the previous year. The first year of the pandemic not only brought an increase in armed violence on the streets – the number of deadly weapon use by police officers also reached a new negative record.
According to the Washington Post, police officers have shot dead at least 6,400 people since 2015, almost 1,000 people a year and nearly three killed a day. The data has not yet been collected centrally by the authorities; the counting has been done by non-governmental organizations, scientists and journalists. The newspaper began its survey after white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old black Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014. Months of protests followed and the Black Lives Matter movement, launched in 2013, gained broader support.
No body cameras
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the risk of all American men being killed by the police is 1 in 2,000, and among black men 1 in 1,000. Efforts to reform the police force and focus more on de-escalation strategies in training have failed so far in many places. According to experts, officials in most districts still do not wear body cameras, which remain a central demand of the protest movement. Training at the police academy takes anywhere from fifteen to twenty weeks, according to recruitment websites.
More than 15,000 local police forces can be reformed by state and local governments, but not by the federal government in Washington. It can only make general guidelines, such as the nationwide collection of data on acts of violence by police officers. But Congress could take more fundamental steps to control firearms possession. The fact that criminals can get their hands on revolvers and rifles so easily cannot be separated from the question of police reform. The number of firearms offenses also increased during the pandemic. In 2020, almost 20,000 people were shot dead, plus around 24,000 suicides with revolvers or rifles. In most cases, police kill people who were armed. As a rule, an investigation follows, which classifies the incident as justified. Only in the rarest of cases do police officers have to answer in court – also because they are protected by powerful professional associations. And again and again the police shoot unarmed people. There are no nationwide figures for this either.