Police in the United States are breaking records in 2017 by killing a record number of the same people they claim to serve and protect, and there is no change in sight under the current administration.
In 2017 alone, police have killed 746 people in the U.S., according to the Killed By Police database, which puts this year on pace to become the deadliest year on record. In contrast, in the first seven months of 2016, police killed 714 people; the number was slightly higher in 2015 with 725 killed; and it was noticeably lower in 2014 with 663 killed and in 2013 with 353 killed.
One case from this year that received a host of media attention occurred on July 15 when Justine Damond, a 40-year-old Australian woman was shot and killed by police in Minneapolis, after she called 911 to report a disturbance in her neighborhood. As The Free Thought Project reported, while audio was released from the shooting, neither one of the two officers on the scene chose to turn on their body cameras, and the Somali officer who shot and killed Damond had several complaints on his record.
In addition to the increase in police shootings, the U.S. is also under a new administration, which has expressed overwhelming support for all of the characteristics that lead to an empowered police state.
In an address to the National District Attorney’s Association conference on July 17, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to increase the federal government’s civil asset forfeiture programs.
“In addition, we hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture—especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.”
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President Trump shared his thoughts on the topic of police brutality during a speech at the Suffolk County Police Department in New York on July 28. He encouraged officers to be “rough” on suspects, and those surrounding him responded by clapping and cheering.
“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody—don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?” Trump said.
While Trump’s comments were in reference to gang members, it should be noted that the same treatment he is advocating is the type of treatment that led to the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died in police custody in April 2015, after suffering from “high-energy” impact from his time riding in the back of a police transport van.
2015 was a year in which 725 were killed in the first seven months, and 1,216 killed overall. It marked a noticeable increased in police killings in the first seven months, when compared to 2014 with 663 killings and 2013 with 353 killings.
While the increase in police killings in 2017 will be written off and justified by many, it is important to remember that the longer the public sits back and does nothing—especially when key government officials are sharing such inflammatory rhetoric—the more likely it is that the numbers will continue to increase.