Seems like a day doesn’t go by that our national media report another Black person shot dead by police. Yet there are never any stories in which the victim is of another race. So I wondered whether Black people are the only ones police are killing.

It turns out nearly twice as many whites are killed by police as Blacks. Since 2015 The Washington Post has been keeping a database listing line-of-duty police killings. As of this writing it lists 2,884 whites as having been killed by police compared to 1,504 Blacks. Curiously, Hispanic victims number just 1,055, yet there are a lot more Hispanics than Blacks in this country.

However, you can’t quit there. Black people have a real beef in that while they account for about 13.4% of the U.S. population according to the census, whites make up about 60% of the population. Put another way, Blacks are killed by police in a disproportionate number to whites. In fact if you quadrupled the percentage of Blacks in the population, and the deadly shooting rate stayed the same, you would have 6,016 Black deaths compared to less than half that for the white population.

Hispanics are an interesting aside. While they account for 18.5% of the population, the 1,055 victims of police shootings is a number that closely mirrors the percentage of Hispanics in the population.

Getting into this subject in any way risks waking the wokes and incurring their wrath on social media. But that didn’t stop the Portland Oregonian from trying to do what it thought was the right thing.

What did they do? They identified a recent police shooting victim as white.

Now you need to understand two things: 1) that Portland has been the scene of nearly constant protests, sometimes violent, over the last year; and 2) that for many years it was a well-intentioned taboo at most newspapers to mention race in police stories. In identifying the victim as white, the Portland Oregonian unleashed a firestorm of criticism across both sides of the political spectrum.

Former Trump administration official Stephen Miller tweeted sarcastically: “ ‘The police killed a man. He was white so you don’t need to come and riot’ is a sane and healthy message coming from our media.”

The Oregonian and its online counterpoint then tried to explain its reasons: “The Oregonian/OregonLive is identifying the man’s race in light of social unrest prompted by police shootings of Black people.”

That didn’t really put a lid on it. More responses followed: “Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter what race or life experience a victim has when they’re extrajudicially (killed). Yes, the police often target Black people. They also target people with mental illness. The reasons for protest remain the same,” one man wrote.

Another said: “Their race doesn’t matter, police shouldn’t be killing people.”

Then an editor at the paper followed up: “We follow our guidelines until the facts create an exception. I firmly believe the fact the victim was white is relevant. His death is no less tragic.”

So what can we take from this and what can be done, especially concerning Black fatalities at the hands of police? The first thing everyone should agree on is that police who are mean and dangerous and don’t follow department protocols should be weeded out.

And, at the risk of reaching beyond my pay grade, I think the problem also needs to be addressed from both directions – police and public. Clearly a large segment of the Black community in parts of this country is socially, opportunity and financially disadvantaged. Crime likely is higher in those communities and they may be more heavily policed.

Addresssing those conditions is a long, complex and noble process but it won’t yield quick results. The police side can be changed much faster. That involves more, better and more intensive training.

Cops are no different from you and me. When the adrenaline starts pumping and survival instincts kick in, bad things happen.

Training needs to encompass much more about defusing potentially deadly situations, and cops need to also fear what may follow if they use lethal force unjustifiably. And whether or not deadly force was justified is likely to hinge on 12 people who couldn’t get out of jury duty.

Kudos to El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles for creating a Crisis Intervention Unit, which pairs officers with mental health professionals. The unit already is credited with cooling confrontations that could have resulted in the use of lethal force, although I tend to think of El Paso law enforcement as a lot less trigger happy than police in some other cities.

The other thing is, and this needs to be said, most victims – not all – were disobeying police commands during their encounter with law enforcement. Parents need to drill into all kids respect for police, and to recognize that disobeying or antagonizing officers may be injurious to your health.


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