Monday, September 1, 2014


That's how many people were killed by cops in the United States between August 1, 2013 and August 1, 2014 based on media reports compiled by "Killed By Cops," one of several efforts under way to assemble an accurate statistical picture of the Killer Kop Kultur in America.

At least 740 people have been killed by police in this country since January 1, 2014.

More than 100 were killed by police in August, 2014 alone.

It's an undercount, I'm sure. So far as I can tell, the police shootings in my rural area of New Mexico, for example, have been left off the records. If that's true here, then I'm sure there have been many other killings by police that weren't recorded on this or any other statistical compilation simply because they weren't incidents that made enough of a splash in the media for long enough to be noticed by those who are doing the compilations.

But the 1164 number contrasts sharply with the statistics maintained by the Department of Justice, statistics which suggest that "only" some 400 are killed by police each year -- though with abundant caveats. In fact, the number is closer to three times that official statistic.

The numbers are astounding, and they don't include those who have been injured in encounters with police. If the number of killings by police is so high, the number of wounded and injured must be in the multiple thousands, perhaps well into the many tens of thousands.

Naturally, statistics like this give rise to the perception that the police are out of control in this country and there is a deeply corrupt and murderous police culture unfettered by legal or moral constraints. It's reached the point where many people are starting to realize that if they have a friend or loved one in crisis, they should not, under any circumstances, call 911 -- unless, that is, they want their friend or loved one dead. Because the police will come, and they will kill. Without remorse or compunction.

Just as the police shot and killed Kajieme Powell within seconds after arriving on scene. The police, by the way, released the video themselves and claimed that it was a good shoot, justified by the behavior of Powell himself -- he rushed at them with a knife!!!! -- just as the Albuquerque police released video of the shooting of James Boyd in March of this year and claimed that the behavior of Boyd, and the fact that he was armed with two -- count them TWO -- pocket knives was justification for his murder. 

The police, in their defense, claim something called protocol. They merely follow the dictates for use of force (rules of engagement) in the police manual, nothing more or less, and if people die, oh well. Too bad so sad. They are merely doing their jobs according to their training and the constraints placed on them by protocol.

Well, isn't that special? Actually it is, for the protocol is used to defend each and every police shooting, whether of human or pet, and well more than nine out of ten times, it works like magic. Practically no police killing is ruled "unjustified." It's amazing. It's one of the most amazing aspects of American society. So many can be killed with utter impunity; police face no consequences at all, even if, as in so many cases, the survivors and loved ones of the unfortunately deceased are later awarded substantial amounts of money (often in the millions) for their loss. The police don't have to pay it. So, no loss no foul, right?

And there's even more magic: all the police ever have to do is claim they were in fear for their lives when they shoot someone and it is a guaranteed free pass. It doesn't matter what the victim was doing or whether he or she was armed (though it is usually a he, there are typically a few cases where police kill female people often in a hail of bullets). So long as the officer says he was afraid for his life (again, the killer is usually a he, but there are occasional female officers involved in killing people, too) it's all good. 

Nothing else really matters, though the victim is routinely and viciously smeared by the police to make it seem like the perp brought the killing on himself or needed killing in any case. The smear campaign launched by police against the victim and typically eagerly engaged in by media is one of the common aspects of nearly every police killing in the USofA. 

And then there are the absurd levels of victim blaming and justification of police killings engaged in by Internet denizens, something that would shock the conscience if it weren't so commonplace. The consistency of it and the nearly worshipful regard expressed for police -- no matter what they do -- puts the lie to the notion that the Internet is the home of the "liberty loving." Nothing could be further from the truth -- assuming the frequency of authoritarian worshiping comments on the Internet is any guide, a questionable assumption I'll agree, but we'll let it pass for the moment. The top comment on the Boyd video is an excellent example of the genre.

The question is, how can we bring an end to this bloody business? More and more, I'm seeing people saying: "We don't need police, especially not if they're so corrupt, bloodthirsty and violent." 

I advocated disbanding the Albuquerque Police Department for its continued violence and bloodshed and its notorious corruption. At the time, I wasn't aware that so many police departments in the US have been disbanded for those reasons among others -- including the fact that they are too expensive to maintain.

The idea of disbanding sometimes puts the fear into police departments, but not enough for them to change their ways. No, instead the police seem to become even more violent and bloodthirsty when confronted with the possibility of even minor consequences for their actions. 

That certainly happened in Albuquerque when the Justice Department released a scathing report detailing case after case of unwarranted police violence, referring to a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing. 

There was a sudden and very bloody uptick APD killings -- an uptick which has somewhat abated recently, but other agencies, like the Marshals, are stepping up to the plate, filling the void as it were... "A killing a month is all we ask..."

So how do we change this culture of blood? At one time, police monitors and accountability boards seemed to curb some of the worst excesses of police departments, but they don't seem to work very well any more. Many have been corrupted, but others never had any power and consequently, they never had any authority over police conduct, which meant their rulings were irrelevant. Many look to the protocols for use of force as sufficient justification for almost any action police officers care to take up to and including lethal force on unarmed subjects. As long as they kill according to the rule book, what's to worry, right?

Monitors and accountability boards can have a marginal effect on police behavior, but it's not sufficient to curb the constant bloodshed. 

The protocols themselves are a big part of the problem. They are used to justify almost any use of force, including lethal force, and that simply must stop. There must be a presumption that the use of force is unjustified. There must be a very high bar indeed for police to use force in any circumstance. Nonviolent means and methods must be the standard in every encounter.

SWAT teams must no longer be tasked with serving warrants. Many high profile police killings happen because of inappropriate SWAT team deployments, and the practice of military style assaults to serve routine warrants must end.

The Drug War must end. 

The culture of policing which presumes that the public in general is the enemy and certain communities are enemy territory must change. In the case of Albuquerque, I suggested that if the APD could not be disbanded, that they be forbidden to patrol beyond a certain district, and that neighborhood patrols composed of neighborhood residents be formed where APD was barred. This is actually a solution to police killings and misconduct that many observers are slowly coming around to. Neighborhoods should be able to police themselves, and they should be able to do so relatively peacefully.

Of course Americans have to get out of the habit of calling 911 for every little thing, and they must learn NEVER to call 911 for a crisis situation involving a friend or loved one -- unless they want that person dead. But why should that be? Wasn't the 911 system established to have a general means of dispatching appropriate emergency services quickly in an emergency? Why yes, yes it was. It worked well for a while, but soon enough -- too soon, really -- police were dispatched as the first responders, to "secure" the situation before the arrival of medical or other responders, and too often the response of police to whatever crisis prompted the 911 call has been use of deadly force.  It's the protocol after all. This protocol has to change. 

Making police personally liable for their actions is an important reform. Right now, most police are immune from personal liability for most of their actions, no matter how inappropriate or violent. This means they act with nearly complete impunity, and this reinforces their blood soaked behavior. This must change.

The police culture has become so antagonistic to the public in part because it has been allowed to separate itself from the public and police have been allowed to do whatever they want to protect themselves in their encounters with public. Force protection comes first and foremost, public protection and service is way down the list. When force protection is first and foremost in the minds and culture of the police, public tragedies -- as we see day in and day out -- are inevitable.

The militarization of police of course is absurd and must be reversed.

These are some of the changes that have to happen if we're to live in a civil society based on dignity, justice, community, and peace. Our office-holders have shown little or no interest in that however, even when they talk a good game, and it will be some time hence before we see substantive change.


  1. The war on drugs was never anything but a pretext to justify the police going after black and latino people; a cover, that is, for racially-motivated violence. Back in the late 80s my wife and I bought a house in Arkansas (about seventy miles north of Little Rock.) The guy that sold us the place proudly played a cassette tape recorded by Arkansas state troopers. Bluegrass music of a particularly racist nature. He wouldn't allow me to make a copy of it, for reasons that would be apparent if you were ever to hear it. The lyrics were all of a humorous nature; humorous in the sense that they all revolved around violence against black people. It was vile beyond imagining. That mentality is out there today, to be sure. The police are violence junkies. Ferguson is just one example of that. You have to wonder how many others never make it into the news, how many nameless Michael Browns are out there.

    Human Relations 1932

    1. Good points. I know that the figures being cited these days are still low, as many killings never make it to the media in ways that they can be easily found.

      The War on Drugs initiated this phase of policing, and it's metastasized. Time to call it "won". Meanwhile the overt racism of the policing practices in St. Louis have been on wide-screen. It's enough to make ya sick.

  2. Me wonder what the true figures are... will we ever know ?

    1. "will we ever know?"

      It's not that hard to assemble statistics from the agencies involved in all these street executions, but there is no incentive to do it, so they don't.

      What happens instead, which is fascinating in some ways, is that the killings get reported in the local media where they happen. Sometimes the coverage is extensive, other times, not so much. But however much coverage there is, it rarely gets beyond the local market.

      Sometimes the killings lead to protests and demonstrations. Sometimes the coverage of the protests and demonstrations is as extensive as or even more extensive than the coverage of the killings themselves. Again, the coverage rarely gets beyond the local market.

      In almost every case, the victim is actively smeared by both police and media as someone who deserved to die/needed killing, even when there is clear evidence that the victim was unarmed, not resisting, surrendering or simply inconvenient or in the way. Nevertheless, the smear is so routine, you can anticipate what it will consist of in almost every case. The media is complicit, in some cases even leads the smearing of the victim.

      The upshot is that the public is conditioned to believe that these are "necessary" killings, that protocol is being observed, and that the victims brought it on themselves, so there is nothing to worry about, nothing is out of kilter, it's just routine police work, go on about your business. People have to die sometimes.

      That's why, in almost all of these cases, the majority of the public goes along with it with few or no questions. And the killing goes on and on and on.

      The compilation of statistics through news reports, however, is starting to open people's eyes to how frequent and pervasive police killings are.

      These death tolls resemble those of a civil war, and in a sense, that's what's going on.