Letter: Evidence on police killings

Posted 9/18/20

To the editor:

People across the country are protesting, some peacefully, some not, ostensibly, because Black Americans are being hunted down and killed by police. Lebron James talks of how he is …

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Letter: Evidence on police killings


To the editor:

People across the country are protesting, some peacefully, some not, ostensibly, because Black Americans are being hunted down and killed by police. Lebron James talks of how he is afraid to be a black man in America, is his statement justified? Are innocent Black Americans being killed nationwide by the police? If this is true, it is absolutely unacceptable and must be stopped, but what is the evidence?

According to the Washington Post’s database on police shootings, in 2019 there were 999 police shootings that resulted in death. Of those 999, 250 were classified as “Black” victims, 403 were classified as “White”, 163 “Hispanic”, and the remaining were “Other & Unknown” victims. Of the 250 (Black), 14 were considered to be “unarmed”, that’s 14 in all of 2019. Please note, “unarmed” does not necessarily mean the shooting was unjustified. For comparison, in 2018, the latest year in which the F.B.I. has released statistics, there were 7,407 “black” victims of homicide. That comes out to approximately 20 homicides per day. Furthermore, according to the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database, while on-duty, nationwide, there have been 35 police officers actually convicted, not by the media, but by a jury of their peers, of murder or non-negligent manslaughter from 2005-June 2019. That averages to less than 3 per year, which includes all races; given the nature of their jobs, the number is frankly astonishing. 7,407 Black Americans unjustifiably killed by non-law enforcement, 3 unjustifiably killed by law enforcement.

We should all celebrate this information, it is great news. We should breathe a huge sigh of relief that the premise which we have been fed, does not appear to be true. Furthermore, instead of constantly disparaging the police, and putting the entire blame on them for any police shooting, perhaps a more productive venture would be to educate one another on how to interact appropriately with police. For example, here is some advice: do not punch police officers and try to steal their firearms; do not resist arrest and take an officer’s stun-gun; if the police have their guns drawn on you and are yelling for you to stop, do not walk away and then reach into your car; and of course, never, ever, under any circumstances: shoot at a police officer! 

In closing, it is reassuring how reliable the police are in doing what is a very dangerous and difficult job, they should be commended. Also, by following basic, common-sense rules when interacting with the police, you will almost certainly prevent your encounter from turning deadly. Finally, the real tragedy, is the alarming number of homicides, every year, of our fellow Black Americans. But why don’t we ever really hear about this? All we seem to hear about is how bad the police are while thousands and thousands of lives are lost and families devastated by non-law enforcement homicide. Where are the protests for them? Where are the marches for them? Where is the NFL, et al? Lebron? Anyone?...Makes you wonder. Remember: 7,407 and 3.

Matthew Fletcher


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.