What is the problem?
Every year, police in America shoot and kill more than 1,000 people, and Black people are victims at a disproportionate rate. Curbing this gun violence requires confronting America’s history of racism, reimagining the role of police, and implementing policies that reduce police gun violence.
Gun violence is a uniquely American epidemic, as is gun violence by police. In addition to the loss of life and the family members and survivors’ pain, police shootings have a uniquely corrosive impact on the nation: patterns of police violence dramatically reduce public confidence in police and lead some community members to see them as part of the problem. The fear sown by these shootings makes neighborhoods less safe since law enforcement cannot do its part in preventing violent crime without the assistance of the community.
Any policing strategy must include these fundamental principles:
- A strong legal standard barring unnecessary police use of force
- De-escalation, reducing officer bias, and a priority for positive law enforcement-community relationships through procedural justice
- Tools for officers at risk of misconduct
- A thorough and independent system for reviewing use of force incidents, and ensuring abusive officers can be disciplined and prosecuted
- Transparency about policies, procedures, and the use of force
Why is it an issue?
America’s gun violence epidemic includes gun violence by police.
As we have long heard from communities of color, police violence is gun violence. Indeed, 95 percent of the deaths of civilians caused by police are with a firearm, and Black people are the victims at a disproportionate rate—they are nearly three times as likely to be shot and killed by police than white people. Curbing this gun violence and the disproportionate impact it has on Black and brown communities will require the country to confront its history of racism and structural inequity. It will also require local stakeholders to reimagine the role of police and community in promoting public safety. Every jurisdiction in the country must have policies that reduce police gun violence, including strong guardrails on when police may use force against civilians, ensuring police are held accountable when force is used, and prioritizing de-escalation, dignity, and respect.
By the numbers
Every year, police in America shoot and kill more than 1,000 people.