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Police shootings: It’s worse than we thought

Melvin B. Miller
Police shootings: It’s worse than we thought
“Maybe it’s time for us to have a white lives matter protest.”

Fatal shootings of civilians by the police acting in the line of duty has become endemic in American society. However, after the shooting of an 18-year-old Black man, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 9, 2014, the Washington Post began to maintain a record of such incidents. Black reaction to the continued victimization of Blacks by the police led to the development of the “Black Lives Matter” campaign.

The Washington Post record indicates that while Blacks were disproportionately killed by the police, a greater number of whites actually lost their lives. The rate of police killings of Blacks was 37 per million, the rate for whites was less than half that, at 15 per million. Despite the proportional disparity, it was shocking to find that 2,962 whites were killed relative to 1,555 Blacks.

But the situation gets worse. According to the New York Times, a study reveals that more than half of police killings go unreported. A research report from the University of Washington found that deaths reported on the National Vital Statistics System, a major federal database, underreported police killings. According to the report, which has been in the Lancet, a British medical journal, the underreporting of about 55% occurred from 1980 to 2018, with other reasons cited for the deaths. During this period of the war on drugs, an estimated 31,000 Americans were killed by the police, but according to the report, 17,000 were not acknowledged in official records.

Researchers attribute the short count to coroners and medical examiners who do not always have the necessary information to provide an accurate record. As a result, it is reasonable to conclude that the number of Black deaths caused by the police is understated. Even so, one wonders why white Americans were so willing to accept the deaths of their husbands, sons and brothers at the hands of the police.

Black protesters chanting “Black Lives Matter” have awakened America to a problem that afflicts everyone. Objections to the “Black Lives Matter” protests are not now as common as before. Certainly all lives matter, but too many white Americans had forgotten that.