According to the Washington Post, American police have reached a milestone. On Wednesday night, the number of American citizens shot and killed by cops has surpassed 700 — almost double the number of police shootings reported by the FBI in a year’s time since at least 1976.
“The 700th fatal police shooting of the year occurred Tuesday afternoon when officers in Los Angeles shot and killed 32-year-old Florencio Chaidez, who they say was armed with a gun,” the Post’s Wesley Lowery writes. “Officers had gotten a call about someone disturbing the peace, and they say that when they arrived they discovered Chaidez, who matched the description of the man they were looking for.” Though police claim Chaidez had a gun, and officers were wearing body cameras, the LAPD says that the video will not be made available to the public.
While the majority of the more than 700 people who were shot and killed by police were armed, 26 of them were black and unarmed. In total, at least 65 victims — almost ten percent of police shootings this year — were not holding a weapon. It is unknown how many of those who were armed actually intended to use their weapon, nor is the data broken down by weapon type.
If a police shooting is justified — great, they did their jobs. But law enforcement officers, unfortunately, are trained to have itchy trigger fingers, and it shows. Previously, the FBI has not recorded more than 460 fatal police shootings in a single year, Lowery notes, adding that “relying on public documents, local news coverage and original reporting,” the Post “had confirmed 463 such shootings in just the first six months of the year.
Policing is dangerous work. Cops face nearly as much peril in the course of performing their duties as grounds maintenance workers, taxi drivers, and construction workers, and slightly more than painters — and they go through some sh*t.
No matter how dangerous one’s job is, however, is is never OK to respond to every perceived threat — like a cosplayer walking around in costume, or a 12-year-old child holding a toy gun, or a man asking for help after he was involved in a car crash — with gunshots. Police absolutely should use their weapons when necessary — but the key word there is “necessary.” Too often, whether a weapon is involved or not, the first reaction is for officers to open fire, like when Alabama police fatally shot a man armed with a dangerous spoon earlier this year.
With the public turning an eye toward police brutality in the United States, now is not the time for law enforcement to set this particular record.
Featured Image via The Sleuth Journal, modified.