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'Routine Police Encounters' Lead To Increase In Killings By Officers



U.S. law enforcement killed at least 1,176 people in 2022, making it the deadliest year on record for police violence since experts first started tracking the killings, a new data analysis shows, The Guardian reports.


Police across the U.S. killed an average of more than three people a day, or nearly 100 people every month last year, according to Mapping Police Violence. The research group maintains a database of reported deaths at the hands of law enforcement, including people fatally shot, beaten, restrained and Tasered.


The preliminary 2022 total – a possible undercount as more cases are catalogued – is 31 additional fatalities than the year before. In 2021, police killed 1,145 people; 1,152 in 2020; 1,097 in 2019; 1,140 in 2018; and 1,089 in 2017.


The earliest data go back to 2013. A database run by the Washington Post, which tracks fatal shootings by police, also shows 2022 as a year with record killings.


The 2020 murder of George Floyd led to national uprisings calling for racial justice, police accountability and reductions in the funding and size of police forces. Despite the international attention and local efforts to curb police brutality, there has been an intensifying backlash to criminal justice reform, and the overall number of killings has remained alarmingly high.


“It just never stops,” said Bianca Austin, aunt of Breonna Taylor, whose March 2020 killing in Kentucky prompted mass protests. “There was a movement and uproar across the globe, and we’re still having more killings? What are we doing wrong? It’s so disheartening.”


While the numbers have crept up, the circumstances of the killings have remained consistent.


In 2022, 132 killings (11 percent) were cases in which no offense was alleged; 104 cases (nine percent) were mental health or welfare checks; 98 (8%) involved traffic violations; and 207 (18 percent) involved other allegations of nonviolent offenses.


There were also 93 cases (eight percent) involving claims of a domestic disturbance and 128 (11 percent) where the person was allegedly seen with a weapon. Only 370 (31 percent) involved a potentially more serious situation, with an alleged violent crime.


“These are routine police encounters that escalate to a killing,” said Samuel Sinyangwe,who founded Mapping Police Violence.. “The reduction in the conversation around police violence does not mean that this issue is going away. What’s clear is that it’s continuing to get worse, and that it’s deeply systemic.”


In 32 percent of cases last year, the person was fleeing before they were killed, generally running or driving off – cases in which experts say lethal force is unwarranted and also endangers the public.


The consistent numbers year after year make clear that “broad systemic change” is necessary to prevent these killings, said Dr Elizabeth Jordie Davies, a Johns Hopkins postdoctoral fellow. While there have been growing calls to defund police, leaders of both political parties have advocated the opposite – pushing for the expansion of law enforcement, she said.

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