Many are right to wonder whether the officers charged today will ever be convicted, given that police officers generally have about a 1 in 1000 chance of being convicted of a crime when they kill someone. The real question, though, isn’t whether these 6 officers will be convicted but whether we are committed to building a movement that will utterly transform our justice system so that shocking statistics like these are relegated to the dust bin of history. Slavery came to an end, the old Jim Crow was brought to its knees and then . . . it got back up and walked. We can end our nation’s history and cycle of creating these massive systems of racial and social control, but it will take a major upheaval, large scale organizing, courageous truth telling, and the stamina to keep building the movement even after the TV cameras go away.
In what may be one of the most thorough and informative studies done on police officers who’ve killed people in the United States since 2005, the Washington Post and Bowling Green State University have done an amazing job giving color and context to an American epidemic that has been swept under the rug far too often. In this study, it was determined that out of thousands and thousands of people killed by police since 2005, only 11 officers have been convicted of any crimes whatsoever.
Almost certainly, this stark reality is not lost on police officers. Fully aware that they have a 1 in 1,000 chance of being convicted when they use lethal force, the risk is so minuscule that officers have no real motivation for avoiding it when they have even the smallest hunch or feeling that danger is any sort of possibility. In any industry, if people feel that they are above prosecution or consequence, it’s going to have a detrimental effect on society. When law enforcement officers feel above the law, people die, and often unjustly.