The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has not curbed the rate of fatal shootings by police officers in the US, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published on Wednesday.
“The Other Epidemic: Fatal Police Shootings in the Time of COVID-19” reveals that deadly police shootings have not decreased during the pandemic, despite social distancing protocols and stay-at-home orders. Some states have even seen an increase in police shootings.
As of June 30, police officers shot and killed 511 people this year, up from 484 in the first half of 2019. And in the last five years, law enforcement officers have fatally shot at least 5,442 people.
In seven states — Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Montana, and Nevada — there have been more fatal police shootings in just the first six months of 2020 than in any previous years on average.
The new report infers that deadly police shootings have become so routine in America, that even a worldwide public health crisis cannot seem to slow them down.
From 2015 to 2019, there was an average of 19.4 fatal police shootings per week during the first half of each year. In 2020, this number is still the same.
“The findings of this report show that police violence in our country is not situational, but rather endemic to our country’s policing institution,” the ACLU’s policing advisor Paige Fernandez said in a press release.
“Despite a once in a lifetime public health crisis that has upended societal norms and caused a decrease in physical interaction, police still manage to kill people at the same rate as before the outbreak of COVID-19.”
The report also found that Black, Latino, and Native American people are disproportionately impacted by deadly police shootings.
In 2019, Black and Indigenous people were three times more likely to be shot and killed by the police than white people. This disparity in police killings has remained consistent over the last five years.
While the report acknowledges that a combination of public outrage, policy changes, and protests against police brutality can help hold individual officers and police departments accountable, it also notes that fundamental and structural changes are still needed to bring an end to police violence altogether.
Some solutions and recommendations to help curb the number of police shootings and killings in the US include abolishing qualified immunity, creating independent oversight committees, demilitarizing the police, transforming use of force statutes, and divesting from current policing budgets.
“In order to address the tide of police violence that continues in Black and Brown communities despite a global pandemic, we must transform policing in this country by dramatically reducing police departments’ role, responsibilities, power, and funding,” Fernandez said.
“Only then can we truly eliminate unnecessary interactions between the police and community members, thereby reducing violence and deaths.”