Black Lives Sacramento, on Eve of MLK Jr. Activities, Charges Blacks Primary Targets in Murders by Police – in Banner Year of Cop Killings

PC: Minnesota Historical Society
Via Wikimedia Commons

By Crescenzo Vellucci

The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO, CA – On the eve of MLK, Jr., marches, Black Lives Matter Sacramento put out a missive announcing, “2023 is the Deadliest Year in the United States, for People Murdered by Police.” And, no surprise, people of color, especially those who are Black, are the primary targets.

“A few weeks ago we sent out an email informing you that a Black woman named Niani Finlayson was murdered by the L.A. Sheriff department in December. In that same email we mentioned how there have been numbers of deaths at the hands of police lately,  but for some reason we have all been carrying on as if nothing is happening,” said BLM Sacramento.

“We haven’t seen too many marches, and in order to find out the names of people being killed…we have to go digging for them. It’s not just our fault though, the media is not sharing these stories. They are not speaking to these families. The media seems to be more engaged when there is misinformation being spread about Black organizations, then they are in actual human lives being taken,” the group added.

The Vanguard is running many of those stories—we can barely keep up with local, regional and national reports of the shootings and mistreatment by law enforcement. But, we are a rare news agency.

As BLM wrote, “The media’s role is amplifying our stories. Protesting and marching plays a role in getting information to the people and eventually the media. The people’s role is to show up in large numbers so that the media shows up, the powers that be hear our demands, and so that we get justice for families that are mourning the lives of their loved ones.”

BLM noted an “article came out in The Guardian on January 8 that said 1,232 people were killed by police in 2023. More than any number of any other year on record. It also said that per the numbers, police are killing three people a day. With Black folks being killed 2.6 more times than white folks.”

The Sacramento group charged, “This is infuriating and unacceptable.” 

“High-profile 2023 cases included the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis; the tasing of Keenan Anderson in Los Angeles; and the shooting in Lancaster, California, of Niani Finlayson, who had called 911 for help over domestic violence. There were hundreds more who garnered little attention, including Ricky Cobb, shot by a Minnesota trooper after he was pulled over for a tail light violation; Tahmon Kenneth Wilson, unarmed and shot outside a Bay Area cannabis dispensary; and Isidra Clara Castillo, killed when police in Amarillo, Texas, fired at someone else in the same car as her,” The Guardian wrote.

BLM Sacramento added, “Another article came out on January 1 in the New York Times stating that more officers are being charged but juries aren’t convicting officers. 

“We need to see changes. We need to remember that our community is not minimized to a neighborhood or city, we are one big community that is having the same experiences in every city, every state, and in every country,” said BLM Sacramento.

The Guardian story, as written by Sam Levin, indeed noted, “Police in the US killed at least 1,232 people last year, making 2023 the deadliest year for homicides committed by law enforcement in more than a decade, according to newly released data.”

Quoting Mapping Police Violence, a non-profit research group, the Guardian said it was the highest number of deaths “at the hands of police and last year recorded the highest number of killings since its national tracking began in 2013. The data suggests a systemic crisis and a remarkably consistent pattern, with an average of roughly three people killed by officers each day, with slight upticks in recent years.

“The group recorded 30 more deaths in 2023 than the previous year, with 1,202 people killed in 2022; 1,148 in 2021; 1,160 in 2020; and 1,098 in 2019. The numbers include shooting victims, as well as people fatally shocked by a stun gun, beaten or restrained. The 2023 count is preliminary, and cases could be added as the database is updated,” said the Guardian.

Interestingly, the record number of police killings “happened in a year that saw a significant decrease in homicides, according to preliminary reports of 2023 murder rates; one analyst said the roughly 13 percent decrease in homicides last year appears to be the largest year-to-year drop on record, and reports have also signaled drops in other violent and property crimes,” wrote the Guardian.

“Violence is trending downwards at an unprecedented rate, but the exception to that seems to be the police, who are engaging in more violence each year,” said Samuel Sinyangwe, a policy analyst and data scientist who founded Mapping Police Violence, adding, “It hits home that many of the promises and actions made after the murder of George Floyd don’t appear to have reduced police violence on a nationwide level.”

Some advocates suggest the lack of systemic reforms and continued expansion of police forces have helped sustain the high rates, and communities continue to boost police budgets because polls show most Americans think crime is rising.

The Guardian quotes Monifa Bandele, an activist on the leadership team for the Movement for Black Lives, who asserts that “while state and local governments continue to rely on police to address mental health crises, domestic disputes and other social problems, killings will continue: The more police you put on the streets to interact with members of my community, the greater the risk of harm, abuse and death.”

Many people were killed while trying to flee police, statistics show; in fact, according to the data, about 36 percent of all cases involved a fleeing person—445 of them. 

“The majority of cases have not originated from reported violent crimes. The police are routinely called into situations where there was no violence until police arrived and the situation escalated,” Sinyangwe said. 

“In 2023, Black people were killed at a rate 2.6 times higher than white people, Mapping Police Violence found. Last year, 290 people killed by police were Black, making up 23.5 percent of victims, while Black Americans make up roughly 14 percent of the total population. Native Americans were killed at a rate 2.2 times greater than white people, and Latinos were killed at a rate 1.3 times greater,” wrote the Guardian.

And, the story added, “Black and brown people have also consistently been more likely to be killed while fleeing. From 2013 to 2023, 39 percent of Black people who were killed by police had been fleeing, typically either running or driving away. That figure is 35 percent for Latinos, 33 percent for Native Americans, 29 percent for white people and 22 percent for Asian Americans.”

“From 2013 to 2022, 98 percent of police killings have not resulted in officers facing charges,” Mapping Police Violence reported.

Joanna Schwartz, UCLA law professor and expert on how officers evade accountability for misconduct, told the Guardian, “Even with public attention to police killings in recent years and unprecedented community engagement, it’s really business as usual. That means tremendous discretion given to police to use force whenever they believe it’s appropriate, very limited federal and state oversight of policing, and union agreements across the country that make it very difficult to effectively investigate, discipline or fire officers.”

And officers, even those with repeated brutality incidents or killings, frequently remain on the force or get jobs in other departments, she noted.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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