Civil Rights, Deadly police shootings, District Attorneys, Wrongful Convictions

Police Shot to Death 115 People in March, Most of them Black Men

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By Frederick H. Lowe

If Murder Inc. was still operating, the nation’s police would be their top competitor.

Murder Inc., which was headed by Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and later by Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia, was the enforcement arm of organized crime in the 1930s and 1940s. During those two decades, Murder Inc. carried out 1,000 contract killings. Anastasia also was known as the “Lord High Executioner.”

Police crime scene
Police crime scene

The American Civil Liberties Union reported on Wednesday that 31 days since the release of the White House Task Force report on 21st Century Policing, police have shot and killed 115 people in March, which is an average of more than three people per day, according to a report released by Kanya Bennett, Legislative Counsel for the ACLU in Washington.

“Too many of this [last] month’s victims fit a profile we know all too well—unarmed men of color, some of whom have psychiatric disabilities. Victims like Charly Keunang in Los Angeles, Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisc., Anthony Hill in Dekalb County, Ga. and Brandon Jones in Cleveland, confirm that the problems with policing are national in scope,” Bennett said. There also were large numbers of white and Hispanic men shot and killed by the police.

In February, police shot and killed 85 people and in January, 91 people were killed by police, according to the ACLU.

“This isn’t a problem concentrated in a few rogue police departments. Even those police departments with the best of intentions need reform. Take for example the Department of Justice report that Philadelphia police shot 400 people—over 80 percent of them African American—in seven years. This is in a city where the police commissioner is an author of the very same White House task force report calling for police reform,” Bennett said.

She noted that excessive and deadly use of force, disproportionately used against people of color and people with psychiatric disabilities is driving a national discourse. “Jaywalking and selling individual cigarettes should not result in death, nor should failing to take [psychiatric] medication,” Bennett said.

The history of American policing is rife with racism, dating back to slavery, according to the book “The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove: An Analysis of the U.S. Police,” which was first published in 1975 by the Institute for the Study of Labor and Economic Crisis.

Plantation police badge
Plantation police badge

The book notes that slave patrols established through state legislatures by plantation owners were the first police organizations.

“These legislatures established slave codes, starting with South Carolina’s 1712 copy of the Barbados statute. The slave codes, which provided for the brutal slave patrols, both protected the planters’ property rights in human beings and held slaves, despite their chattel status, legally responsible for misdemeanors and felonies.”

After Reconstruction, slave patrols became police departments, according to the book.

The ACLU released several, single-lined pages of the names of people killed by police in 2014, 2013 and so far this year. The organization gathered the data from Google searches, but the ACLU argues that the public needs and deserves legitimate data-collection practices that promote transparency and accountability whenever police use unreasonable force.


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