Police Murderers and Murders: How to End the Endless Cycle of Murder and Violence

Protesters clash with police in Charlotte, N.C., September 20, 2016. (Photo: Adam Rhew/Charlotte Magazine/Reuters)

“Horrific Video Shows Police Killing of Unarmed Man…”¹ “Police Officer is ‘Murdered for Her Uniform’…”² In the United States, we see the headlines every day, the police murder someone. Someone murders a police officer. The question ultimately becomes, whom murders who and why? We live in a society that is able to spread news of tragedies and autocracies quickly and efficiently through the use of social media and the internet.³ We see the murders daily on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, on the television, and in the newspapers and magazines. But the cycle of murder must stop. I present to you a new model of policing: Community Police Control. This model, as discussed below, is based on a simple premise: police must be members of the community, live in the community, and represent the community. This model focuses on ensuring that the community has full control over police officers, that it is local communities that employ the police, that the police only stay in their communities, and only in rare instances are outside forces brought into the community.

A fair warning: The first part of this article deals virtually exclusively with data, statistics, and numbers. If you don’t like statistics and data, jump to The Solution. If you want to know how big of a problem the cycle of murder is, then read on. But if you want to learn about Community Police Control now and skip the numbers, jump right to the solution.

The Problem: Murder Rates of Minorities and the Poor

To know why these tragedies occur and try to prevent future tragedies, it is important to know whom is murdered by whom and try to find a way to prevent future tragedies. The focus here is on the last two years (2015–2016) where there is full data on the number of individuals murdered by police and the number of incidents where police are murdered. For the years 2015–2016 a total of 2,239 individuals were murdered by police officers.⁴ For both years, the data as a whole is relatively consistent with 1,093 individuals murdered in 2016 and 1,146 murdered in 2016.⁵ In terms of race/ethnicity (the term used by the FBI and The Guardian) of the individuals murdered, 1,158 were classified as white.⁶ This is a rate of 51.72%.⁷ During the same period 573 blacks/African-Americans were murdered, a rate of 25.59%.⁸ 378 Latinos/Hispanics were murdered for a rate of 16.88%.⁹ Only 52 Asians/Pacific Islanders were murdered for a rate of 2.32%.¹⁰ Native American fatalities totaled 37, a rate of 1.65%.¹¹ Finally, a total of 41 individuals were another race or had their race unknown, a rate of 1.83%.¹² The percentages though, do not tell the true story. The most accurate way to measure the race/ethnicity of whom was murdered by looking at it based on each group’s death by police per million. For whites, it was a rate of 2.95 per million and 2.9 per million for each year respectively.¹³ For blacks/African-Americans it was a rate of 7.69 and 6.66, for Latinos/Hispanics 3.45 and 3.23, for Asians/Pacific Islanders 1.34 and 1.17, and for Native Americans a very disturbing 5.49 and 10.13.¹⁴ Hence, while the majority of individuals murdered were white, they had a lower death rate per million than all groups other than Asians/Pacific Islanders. Native Americans had the most disturbing trend with them being murdered at an extremely high rate relative to their population. While they account for “only” 1.69% of those murdered by police, the average number murdered per million over the two-year period is by far the highest (nearly a person more murdered per million than African-Americans, the next closest group demographically).

During the same two year period a total of 96 law enforcement officers were murdered in a “felonious incident.¹⁵ A felonious incident is defined as deaths which result from a criminal act and include ambushes, traffic pursuits, responding to domestic disturbances or delivering search warrants.¹⁶ Of the 96 murders, 49 of them, or 51.04% of them were committed by whites.¹⁷ This is within a percentage point of those who police murdered. 32 of the incidents were caused by African-Americans, a rate of 33.33%, or around 8% higher than those murdered by police.¹⁸ Asians/Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders did not commit any murders and Native-Americans committed two murders.¹⁹

The most disturbing part of the statistics for both who police murder and who murders police is that they do not align anywhere close to the demographic breakdown of the United States. As of July 1, 2016, the racial make-up of the United States was approximately 76.9% white, 13.3% Black/African-American, 1.3% Native Americans/Alaska Native, and 5.9% Asian/Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.²⁰ This means that whites are murdered at a rate of nearly 35% below their population, African-Americans at a rate of nearly double their population, Asians at a rate of half their population percentage, and Native Americans at roughly their population percentage (again this not take into consideration the rate murdered per million, just the population percentage rate. The rate per million is much more disturbing). Conversely, this means that Whites murder police officers at a rate of roughly 25% less than their population, African-Americans at a rate of nearly two-and-a-half times higher than their population, and Native Americans at around their population rate.²¹ None of these totals are anywhere close to matching their population.

The income level of individuals can also be determined, or at least assumed, based upon the average income of the census tract where they lived. This is equally important in determining a common sense solution for ending this murderous cycle of violence and death. A census tract is a “small, relatively permanent statistical subdivision[] of a county or equivalent entity that are updated by local participants prior to each decennial census as part of the Census Bureau’s Participant Statistical Areas Program.”²² Using data from 2015, two different groups published independent raw data looking at information from the first three months and six months of the year respectively. Each article found similarities regarding the income level of victims.

The first analysis was done by AlterNet author Zaid Jilani. Jilani found that for the first three months of 2015, 95% of those murdered by police had an income level of less than $100,000.²³ The author noted that the average neighborhood family income for where a murder occurred was $57,764 with a median income of $52,907.²⁴

FiveThirtyEight, a statistical analysis website, conducted the second look at raw data based upon the information published by the Guardian in “The Counted.” They found that roughly 30% of those murdered in the first six months of 2015 came from the bottom 20% of households economically.²⁵ However, for African-Americans, more than 40% of the victims died in census tracks in the bottom 20% of household income.²⁶ Of the 467 documented police murders for that time period, only 12 of those occurred in census tracts with an average household income of above $100,000.²⁷ 293 murders occurred in census tracts with an average household income of less than $50,000.²⁸ Of those 293, 140 murders, or slightly less than 50% occurred in census tract areas where the white population was more than 50%.²⁹

Together, this data creates some striking conclusions: that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be murdered by police officers. However, there seems to be no correlation between the percentage of whites in a census tract and the likelihood a police officer would murder an individual within that tract.³⁰ From the data provided, there is no way to make a clear conclusion of why no correlation exists. One can though, create various hypotheses about why this occurs. These include the idea that an individual with darker skin in a predominately white neighborhood would be more feared and thus, more likely to have the police called on them, that police have an increased presence in low income communities, making the likelihood of a police shooting more likely, and that race is not a factor in police murders, merely the perception of wealth is. Unfortunately, no final conclusion can be drawn until someone takes a painstakingly long time to comb through the data and create a chart that shows the race of the victim, the percentage of whites in the census tract where the murders occurred, the average income of the census track where the murders occurred, and the average income of the census track where a victim lived, and do so for a multi-year period instead of just a few months in a single year.³¹ Until such data is analyzed, any attempt to find a clear conclusion on this ground alone would be based on pure speculation and incomplete information.³²

The Solution: Community Police Control

All of this date raises an obvious question: why are the rates of who police murder and who murders police so significantly different than their general population rates? There can be numerous reasons and speculation for this. The assumption that I am making however, is based upon where police normally go in their duties. Police do not normally patrol “nice, safe” white neighborhoods. Nor do they normally patrol their own neighborhoods. Rather, they go to places that are considered the inner city. Those areas are generally going to have a higher percentage of minorities and a lower income level than the general population due to de facto, if not de jure segregation and economic manipulation that has occurred over the past two hundred police years.

So what can be done to ensure that police are actively working in their own community, a place that they care about and a place that matters to them? Community Police Control. This is a radical solution, but one that could solve our current murder epidemic and cycle of murder. How this works is based on 7 simple steps.

1. Small communities are created either from new mapping techniques or from current politically drawn lines, such as from precincts. The idea would be to create small communities with a population size of between 300 and 1,000 individuals. Communities must be truly contiguous and in an easily recognizable shape.

2. Every resident in the community over the age of 12, whether a renter, owner, American, immigrant, undocumented individual, felon, student, foreign nationals on a visa, etc. gets an equal vote and voice in the policing and enforcement mechanism of their community.

3. Each community creates a type of standard of enforcement and policy for policing. This can range from what laws they expect police to enforce to how many police officers they want in their community to if they want to have the polic carry guns, knives, batons, or any weapon at all to if they want a professional, semi-professional police force, or purely volunteer police force. The community decides what they want.

4. The community finds members of the community who are willing and able to serve as police for the community.

5. The new police receive training in alternate dispute resolution, mediation, mental health assistance, homelessness prevention and non-violent use of force (i.e. how to disarm an individual). They also receive a general overview of basic criminal laws in their municipality and state.

6. The new police officers do not conduct any form of patrol or walk a beat, but rather assist children in school, sports, and homework, the elderly with their daily needs, with community improvement projects as determined by the community, and other duties which the community needs based on their specific situation. Only when they receive a call or text that they are needed to do “traditional” police work, do they do such duties.

7. Any form of law enforcement officer that is not a member of the community only comes into the community to assist on truly violent crimes, such as murder, rape/sexual assault, shootings, home invasions, etc. All other duties are left to the community police.

What will this do exactly to reduce violence? First off, it will give communities the power to decide what they want for their community and what crimes to enforce. It will make it so that they can decide what to do about the numerous petty crimes, such as simple drug possession, that lock up hundreds of thousands, if not millions of individuals a year.³³ If police do not respond to certain types of crimes, they are less likely to be placed in a situation that has the potential to end violently. Secondly, there would likely be a significant decrease in incidents due to fear of an unknown individual. Police working in their communities and in community projects are likely to know, or at least recognize, the vast majority, of individuals living and moving about in their community. This would reduce the fear factor. Additionally, if they see an individual with what may or may not be a weapon, it is much more likely that they can approach them to see what is going on without fear of being shot or shooting someone due to a wrongfully perceived move. Finally, it eliminates the government from the dealing with most crimes, unless the community wants it. The government, even in today’s modern age, is still dominated by older, white, Christian, heterosexual males.³⁴ These individuals are not representative of their community. Rather, they are purely representative of what should be a long gone age of the controls of power being wielded only by a select few.

Communities alone have the power to stop the endless cycle of murder. Giving communities the opportunity to take charge of their own affairs and own policing will help end this cycle of murder. Police are no longer needed for in the way they once were. The time for reform was yesterday. We cannot wait until tomorrow. We must act now. No one should have to walk about again and hear about over 1,000 murders committed by police a year. No family should ever be in fear that their spouse, child, or parent will not come home because they are murdered for simply wanting to protect the community. It is time that the community decides for themselves. Give communities the power. End the cycle of murder.

[1] http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/12/graphic-video-shows-police-killing-of-unarmed-man-in-arizona.html. (Published December 8, 2017).

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/05/nyregion/nypd-bronx-police-shooting.html. (Published July 5, 2017).

[3] See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html. (Published March 23, 2012). Interestingly enough, while people remember negative events longer than positive event, positive events spread quicker. See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/science/good-news-spreads-faster-on-twitter-and-facebook.html?pagewanted=all. (Published March 18, 2013).

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] https://ucr.fbi.gov/leoka/2016/tables/table-41.xls.

[16] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/01/09/are-black-or-white-offenders-more-likely-to-kill-police/?utm_term=.f4fb5d9b3492. Retrieved January 30, 2018.

[17] https://ucr.fbi.gov/leoka/2016/tables/table-41.xls.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045216. Retrieved February 1, 2018.

[21] The data for Native Americans and Asians is based on the assumption that they murder police officers at approximately the same percentile of overall officers murdered.

[22] https://www.census.gov/geo/reference/gtc/gtc_ct.html. Retrieved January 18, 2018

[23] https://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/95-police-killings-2015-occurred-neighborhoods-incomes-under-100000?sc=fb. Retrieved January 16, 2018.

[24] Id.

[25] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/where-police-have-killed-americans-in-2015/. Retrieved January 16, 2018.

[26] Id.

[27] Id. at Table 1.

[28] Id.

[29] Id.

[30] It should be noted that no information is included in FiveThiryEight’s data looking specifically at the race of the individual murdered compared to the average percentage of a race in a tract and income level.

[31] The percentage of whites who live in a given census tract would most likely be data that can be used to draw a more complete conclusion under the theory that police murder individuals that appear to not belong in a given neighborhood.

[32] Some of the current incomplete information includes limited data on the average income for the census tract where victims lived. Where they were murdered is the data that is used virtually exclusively.

[33] https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2017.html.

[34] See http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/current-numbers. Retrieved February 12, 2018; https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/both-republicans-and-democrats-have-an-age-problem/. Retrieved February 13, 2018; http://www.pewforum.org/2017/01/03/faith-on-the-hill-115/. Retrieved February 13, 2018.