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Study reveals police use of force disproportionately affects Black, Latino residents

Study reveals police use of force disproportionately affects Black, Latino residents

In times when cases of police brutality and even deaths go unreported in the United States, The Leadership Conference Education Fund has launched Accountable Now, an online resource that collects, tracks and shares “use-of-force” data available to everyone, in hopes of transparency and accountability from law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

The Leadership Conference has been around for nearly 70 years and the purpose of the Civil and Human Rights organization is to: “Build an America as good as its ideals.”

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Accountable Now is an action and a resource of the policing campaign at The Leadership Conference Education Fund. One of its purposes is to highlight unreported cases of police brutality against Black and Hispanic people. It also gives access to the data to researchers and advocacy groups that seek transformational change in their communities.

“We work on justice related issues,” said Bree Spencer, the policing program manager at The Leadership Conference. “Our justice program has been advocating for a national police use-of-force database that’s available to the public for over seven years and it has yet to come to fruition so we decided to try and do what we could to stand on our own because this is really important information. Police officers are agents of the state and the public has the right to know how they’re behaving and treating people on a day-to-day basis, so that is where the idea for Accountable Now came from.”    

Under 34 U.S.C. 12606, the US Attorney General is required to acquire data on the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers and publish an annual report of the data. In a recent study done by researchers from the University of Washington and published by The Lancet medical journal, the study suggests that the number of deaths reported by law enforcement don’t match what is actually happening.

According to a study, the data shared by the National Vital Statistics System was examined and compared with the data provided by Fatal Encounters, Mapping Police Violence and The Counted, three non-governmental online databases on police brutality. It was estimated that 30,800 deaths resulted from police brutality between 1980-2018. It was also discovered that more than half of those deaths [17,100] were not reported by the NVSS.

Data for incidents that are non-lethal are just as important as the lethal incidents that are widely reported for the community.

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“I think that when there is a report of use of force, it tends to be in the most lethal and very serious circumstances,” said Spencer. “But there are a litany of ways that police use force in, pardon the language of our times, but it would be to say ‘lower level,’ use of force that is still very, very serious and impactful to the people who are experiencing it on the ground. That’s another part of Accountable Now that’s really important. We try to show the full scope of use of force by departments that’s utilized against members of the public. Not only firing their weapons but also pointing their weapon or placing people on the ground, putting their hands on people. All of that matters to someone’s experience and how they feel about law enforcement and whether or not they feel safe around law enforcement.”

In recent years, the population of African Americans in San Francisco has been declining. According to census.gov, as of 2019, the population of African Americans in San Francisco is only 5.2 percent, while Whites made up 46.4 percent and Asians made up 34.4 percent. Of that small percentage of African Americans in the population of San Francisco, 43 percent were victims of police brutality that year. In 2018 it was 42 percent and in 2017 it was 43 percent, according to Accountable Now.

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“Black people are not treated with the same fairness as other people in this country,” said Spencer. “Black and Brown people experience the vast majority of violence enacted by police and it’s connected to white supremacy and racism in the criminal legal system. It comes partially from racism results in over-policing of communities that are particularly Black and Brown which means police are there more often and more present in the community and so they’re interacting at a higher frequency with folks than they are in communities that are White.”   

According to census.gov, the Hispanic population was at 31.6 percent in San Jose, while Whites made up 39.9 percent and Asians made up a 35.9 percent as of 2019.  However, that same year, Hispanics made up a 51 percent of the cases reported of police brutality and 58 percent in 2018 while Asians were reported to make up 11 percent in 2019 and 12 percent in 2018. Whites made up 22 percent of cases of police brutality in 2019 and 16 percent in 2018, according to Accountable Now.

“Ultimately, we do know what makes communities feel safe,” said Spencer. “Communities are safe when they are well-resourced, when people are healthy and people are thriving. And we know that the communities that are the safest in the United States are not the ones that center policing.”

Their website is: https://www.accountablenow.com/

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