Race and Policing
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The first part of this report is an update to Amnesty International's 2015 report Deadly Force: Police use of lethal force in the United States, which reviewed state use of lethal force laws in all 50 states and Washington D.C. The second part of the report focuses on the policing of protests that have occurred in cities across the USA since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Amnesty International reviewed over 500 videos of protests and documented 125 separate incidents of police violence against protestors in 40 states and the District of Columbia between May 26th and June 5th of 2020. This report also draws on Amnesty International's interviews with 50 individuals, including protestors, journalists, legal observers and street medics, and a review of media reports, medical reports, photos, and videos. Conclusively, there is a disturbing lack of progress in the last five years in ensuring that police officers use lethal force only when there is an imminent risk of death or serious injury to themselves or others.
Hundreds of men and women are killed by police each and every year across the United States. No-one knows exactly how many because the United States does not count how many lives are lost. The limited information availablehowever suggests that African American men are disproportionately impacted by police use of lethal force. While themajority of the unarmed African Americans killed by police officers are men, many African American women havealso lost their lives to police violence. Police officers are responsible for upholding the law, as well as respecting andprotecting the lives of all members of society. Their jobs are difficult and often dangerous. However, the shooting ofMichael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and countless others across the United States has highlighted a widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers and an alarming use of lethal force nationwide.Amnesty International reviewed US state laws – where they exist – governing the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials and found that they all fail to comply with international law and standards. Many of them do not even meet the less stringent standard set by US constitutional law. Some state laws currently allow for use of lethal force to "suppress opposition to an arrest"; to arrest someone for a "suspected felony"; to "suppress a riot or mutiny"; or for certain crimes such as burglary. A number of statutes allow officers to use lethal force to prevent an escape from a prison or jail. Others allow private citizens to use lethal force if they are carrying out law enforcement activities
Police brutality and use of excessive force has been one of the central themes of Amnesty International's campaign on human rights violations in the USA, launched in October 1998. In United States of America: Rights for All (AI Index: AMR 51/35/98), the organization documented patterns of ill-treatment across the USA, including police beatings, unjustified shootings and the use of dangerous restraint techniques to subdue suspects. While only a minority of the many thousands of law enforcement officers in the USA engage in deliberate and wanton brutality, Amnesty International found that too little was being done to monitor or check persistent abusers, or to ensure that police tactics in certain common situations minimized the risk of unnecessary force and injury. The report also noted that widespread,systematic abuses had been found in some jurisdictions or police precincts. It highlighted evidence that racial and ethnic minorities were disproportionately the victims of police misconduct, including false arrest and harassment as well as verbal and physical abuse.This document describes proposals for change made at federal and local level and other developments which have taken place since publication of Rights for All. It also summarizes Amnesty International's continuing concerns about police brutality in the USA, highlighting specific areas and reiterating its key recommendations.
Amnesty International has received disturbing allegations of the ill-treatment of suspects, deaths in custody and unjustified shootings by officers from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in the past few years. Although reports of police brutality are not new, the number of people bringing claims for police misconduct against the City of New York has increased substantially in recent years, from 977 in 1987 to more than 2,000 in 1994. The amount paid out by the city each year in settlements or judgments awarded to plaintiffs in police abuse cases has also risen, from$13.5 million in 1992 to more than $24m in 1994.This report describes the results of research conducted by the organization over an 18-month period which included two fact-finding visits to New York. Amnesty International acknowledges that a number of reforms have taken place within the NYPD during the past three years, partly in response to a commission of inquiry into police corruption which was appointed in 1992. However, there remains a problem of police brutality and excessive force which the organization believes still needs to be urgently addressed.