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Police Violence Persists, Though Most Media Have Stopped Paying Attention

This year is the fourth in a row with at least 1,000 victims.

(Photo: Garrett Wilber)

October was an especially brutal month when it comes to the tally of people killed by police in this country, particularly for people of color. I emphasize people of color because my lifelong research on this topic tells me that their killings are not random, but rather are a result of dehumanization and the constant patrolling of bodies and communities of color, especially those of Native, Black and Brown peoples.

Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon. This pattern of killings with impunity has been ongoing since 1492. Regardless of whether the killings are random or targeted, the number of law enforcement killings in this country is unparalleled anywhere else in the “developed” world. (KBP) lists 93 people killed in the month of October. For September, the number was “only” 84.

Let that sink in; that is more than three per day, and November is on the same pace.

There are other groups that keep similar tallies, but KBP has done the most consistent job since mid-2013. (The Guardian was doing excellent work on this topic; however, it stopped this past year.) It is shameful that in this day and age, a volunteer effort, year in and year out, does a better job than the federal government at keeping track of such statistics.

In October, five Native people were listed as killed. This includes: Robert James Lightfeather, 33 (tribe unidentified); 27-year-old Lucas John de Ford (Ho-Chunk Nation); George Gip Jr, 35, (while his tribe was not identified, he was reportedly killed on the Standing Rock Reservation); Dexter David Anthony Baxter, 30, (tribe unidentified); and Johnny Bonta, 43 (tribe unidentified).

The death of five Indigenous people in one month may seem extraordinarily high, considering they make up but 1 percent of the population. However, Native people are consistently killed by police at a higher rate than any other racial group in this country.

Additionally, I counted at least 19 victims labeled as Latinos/Latinas, though only six were identified as such. The 19 are identifiable as Latino/Latina primarily by their last names. There may be more, because often, Latinos and Latinas — most of whom for these purposes are Mexican or Central American — are often mislabeled as white or Black, and in other cases, they are not identified at all. As currently counted, they can be of any race. Because the Latino /Latina label is inconsistently applied across the country, it, of course, makes the compilation of statistics somewhat more complex. Jorge Cabrera, for instance, is not identified as Latino, though most certainly should be added to the count, bringing to 20 confirmed in this category.

In early October, an unidentified man was killed by police in Los Angeles. While his name was not provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, KBP does identify him as Latino. This brings to 21 confirmed. On November 2, KBP listed one more Latino, killed on October 31, bringing to 22 for the month of October. The number of Latinos killed by police are also extremely high, though almost always invisibilized by the mainstream media.

KBP lists 22 Black people killed this past month; however, the numbers are certain to be higher (due to those that are unidentified thus far) because this nation’s streets continue to be killing fields when it comes to police violence against Black people.

What I show then from KBP is:

• Twenty-two are listed as Black.

• About 22 are Latino (six identified, 16 not identified and possibly one to two more, due to last names.)

• Five are listed as Indigenous.

• Twenty-nine are listed as white.

• The rest are currently not yet identified, though due to last names and geographic locations, they are probably either Black or white, though possibly Indigenous or Latino.

Thus, KBP lists 93 deaths at the hands of law enforcement for the month of October. This list tells us several things:

1.) We live in a very violent society.

2.) The numbers, regardless of cause, are unparalleled by countries in Europe or other “developed” nations worldwide.

3.) The numbers of people of color being killed, when considered in proportion to their numbers in society, are at a crisis level.

4.) While the mainstream media report on a few spectacular cases, for the most part, virtually all those killed here will remain nameless, publicly forgotten. Most Americans will have never heard of any of them at all.

5.) Quite a few of those killed each month are either mentally ill or homeless or both. Often, they end up dead because the officers are not properly trained to deal with their conditions or situations.

The number of those killed by law enforcement for the month of October is almost double the number killed in the mass shooting in Las Vegas at the beginning of the month (58) and almost four times (26) the number of those killed in Sutherland Springs, Texas, at the beginning of this month.

The fact that police killings continue unabated, and that none of these 93 killings have been covered nationally, screams normalization. At the end of October of this year, the number of killings was at 996. The number at the beginning of November is now already past 1,000. This too is “normal”: 2017 is the fourth year in a row, based on KBP statistics, that this nation has seen at least 1,000 deaths at the hands of police.

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