NEW YORK — A new ACLU report – “The Other Epidemic: Fatal Police Shootings in the Time of COVID-19” – finds that fatal shootings by police in Arkansas have continued unabated, and even ticked up, despite the pandemic. The report finds that fatal shootings by police are so routine that, even during a national pandemic, with far fewer people traveling outside of their homes, police have continued to fatally shoot people at the same rate so far in 2020 as they did in the same period from 2015 to 2019. Further, the analysis reveals that Black, Native American/Indigenous, and Latinx people are still more likely than white people to be killed by police.
“These findings confirm that police violence is not situational – it is endemic, and policing in Arkansas is no exception. Despite a once in a lifetime public health crisis that has caused a decrease in physical interaction, Arkansans are killed by police at even higher rates as before the outbreak of COVID-19,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “In addition to scaling back the role of police in our communities and reducing the needless, routine interactions that turn deadly, it is imperative that state officials establish a conduct a comprehensive review of the use of force and establish a statewide licensing board to take and act upon complaints of police misconduct from the public.”
Key findings of the report include:
- As of June 30, 2020, police officers had fatally shot 511 people nationally and 10 people in Arkansas so far this year. That represents an increase from the average 6.8 people killed by police in Arkansas during the same time period from 2015 – 2019.
- As a proportion of the population, Arkansas’s rate of death by police shootings over the last five years is 2.3 – the 10th highest in the country (see table below).
- Nationally, approximately 46 percent of fatal police shootings kill white people, who account for roughly 60 percent of the U.S. population. Another 24 percent of fatal police shootings kill Black people, who account for about 13 percent of the U.S. population.
Because of stay-at-home orders, social distancing requirements, and police department policies advising officers to initiate fewer investigative contacts, we might have expected fewer fatal police shootings in 2020 relative to years past. This number is consistent with each of the previous five years for which we have data — a surprising outcome given the significant societal disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“The Other Epidemic: Fatal Police Shootings in the Time of COVID-19” provides a comprehensive set of recommendations centered on reinvesting in community-based services that are better suited to respond to actual community needs and reducing police interactions. These recommendations include prohibiting police from enforcing a range of non-serious offenses including non-serious traffic and minor offenses, transforming use of force statutes so that police officers use of force against community members is rare, abolishing qualified immunity, which often shields officers from liability for many constitutional violations, and establishing independent oversight structures with teeth that ensure that when officers use force in violation of the law they are held accountable.
The report is online at: http://aclu.org/policeshootingreport