April V. Taylor
A new report entitled “Don’t Shoot to Kill,” has been published by the Los Angeles Youth Justice Coalition and reveals that Los Angeles Police Department officers have killed almost 600 people over the course of the last 14 years, amounting to one person a week. Ironically, the report was released on the same day LAPD officers killed Ezell Ford, an unarmed 25-year-old black man. When the group decided to take a closer look at the data for the 314 deaths that occurred between 2007 and 2014, they found that 97 percent of those who were killed were men and 92 percent were Black or Latino.
In its analysis of LAPD use of deadly force, the report states the following, “In arguing self-defense, a civilian – even within their own home – must prove that the individual they attack poses an immediate threat to their life. By comparison, in order to use deadly force, law enforcement officers must demonstrate that the person posed a threat to the safety of the officers or others in the community. Therefore, even the shooting in the back of someone running away can be considered ‘justifiable homicide’ when law enforcement claim that they posed a potential threat to community safety. We believe that this burden for law enforcement use of force is far too low, and the cases listed…document the results when officers see so many people – especially youth of color, the homeless, mentally ill or disables, or people who are intoxicated – as serious threats to community safety.”
While many people in the black community are not shocked by any of the contents of the report, others might be. The report goes a long way in proving what black communities have been trying to get others to understand for years – that black and low income neighborhoods are essentially war zones with police killing citizens in the streets.
The report goes on to confront the issue of police violence in brutally honest fashion stating, “We know personally that police violence isn’t only the bullets that pierce our dome, but the police baton that breaks our bones, and the battering ram that breaks our homes. It’s the war on drugs and the war on gangs that gentrifies our communities and fills our prisons. It’s the seperation of families through gang injunctions, incarceration an deportation that leaves us orphaned. It’s California’s addiction to police and prison spending that bankrupts our schools and shuts down positive resources in our communities…Demans a city, a state and a nation where Ezell Ford and Deandre Brunston, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Suzie Pena, and Devin Brown would be in college and not in the ground.”