A new study released by the Washington Post reveals that for every 1000 people killed at the hands of police, only one officer is convicted of a crime. Since 2005, although there have been thousands of fatal shootings by police officers, only 54 have been charged. Of those charged, most were cleared or acquitted.
This analysis is, to date, the most comprehensive of its kind. According to the Post:
“The 54 criminal prosecutions were identified by Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip M. Stinson and The Washington Post. Cases were culled from news reports, grand jury announcements and news releases from prosecutors. For individual cases, reporters obtained and reviewed thousands of pages of court records, police reports, grand jury indictments, witness testimony and video recordings. Dozens of prosecutors and defense attorneys in the cases were interviewed, along with legal experts, officers who were prosecuted and surviving relatives of the shooting victims.”
It stands to reason that if there are thousands of fatalities due to police shootings, the number of police charged would be much higher than it is. According to the analysis, in order for prosecutors to press charges, there had to be exceptional factors at play. These include “a video recording of the incident, a victim shot in the back, incriminating testimony from other officers or allegations of a coverup.”
According to Bowling Green criminologist Philip M. Stinson, “To charge an officer in a fatal shooting, it takes something so egregious, so over the top that it cannot be explained in any rational way. It also has to be a case that prosecutors are willing to hang their reputation on.”
On the rare occasion an officer is charged with a crime, the punishment on average is much lower than would be expected, some spending only weeks behind bars. The prosecutors and defense lawyers interviewed in the study attribute this to the fact that “Jurors are very reluctant to punish police officers, tending to view them as guardians of order.”
The most alarming part about this study is that the number of people fatally shot by police could potentially be much higher because police departments are not required to keep the database of police shootings updated. This is terrifying, as it’s arguably one of the most important records a police department could keep.
The odds are most certainly stacked against the victims of police shootings due to a lack of accountability across the board. Police officers are afraid to speak out against coworkers in fear of crossing the “thin blue line.” They receive paid vacations for misconduct. Thuggish police unions protect the violent cops and courts are constantly ruling in favor of police officers after brutally murdering innocent people. The system is set up to either reward or ignore bad police behavior, and these killings will undoubtedly continue unless a drastic change in procedure is made.