“police killings are not the whole story. The protests, and all the policy recommendations that have come with them, are pushing back against other systemic problems too.
Some of those injustices are specific and quantifiable: shootings, unfair traffic stops, arbitrary arrests. Others are vague but no less concerning: feeling you have no recourse for complaints about police, the calculus that can go into the decision to call 911, the sense that an investigation into a reported crime won’t be prioritized, the nervousness and fear that must be tamped down as one works to stay calm and keep an officer calm — all while wondering if you are living your final moments.
Not all of these problems can be measured. The number of police killings per year is a statistic that can be tabulated and broken down into easily digested parts: killings per region, per department, per time of day, per ethnicity. But how police make people feel is not quite as easily captured in data. There are ways to try — surveys asking whether officers make one tense or whether one trusts law enforcement — but such questions offer limited insight into what is causing those results or what effect they have.
Meanwhile, the issues behind the answers to those surveys do have a clear effect: They leave many black Americans frustrated with and fearful of police.”
“During a national crisis, so many people feel moved to give, and that’s great. But it’s best if we don’t all heap money on the same charity. After a certain point, a nonprofit runs out of “room for more funding,” meaning it has enough money to fund all of the work it’s good at doing, so more donations may not be used effectively.”
“It’s also worthwhile to think hard about which causes are being neglected. If bail funds suddenly become hot, do more research into adjacent or underlying issues. Donating to a group that advocates for ending the cash bail system altogether (as MFF does) might actually become a more appealing option. That’s a broader, more systemic change than bailing out a few dozen protesters right now, but it may well do more good in the long term.”
“MFF plans to apply this long-game thinking to its work going forward. It’ll use its $30 million to push for systemic change, including abolishing money bail and overhauling immigration detention. That was always its mission, stated on its website for all to see. The complaint among some donors that this mission isn’t what they signed up for highlights, more than anything, the importance of doing due diligence before donating and adopting a rigorous approach to giving.”
“In a 2017 analysis of data from 20 states, researchers at Stanford University found that “white drivers are searched in 2.0% of stops, compared to 3.5% of stops for black motorists and 3.8% for Hispanic motorists.” After the researchers controlled for stop location, date and time, and driver age and gender, they calculated that “black and Hispanic drivers have approximately twice the odds of being searched relative to white drivers.” They were also twice as likely to be arrested. The study found that “black and Hispanic drivers are searched on the basis of less evidence than white drivers, suggestive of bias in search decisions.”
After surveying drivers in the Kansas City area in 2003 and 2004, Charles Epp and two other researchers at the University of Kansas classified police encounters based on the legal justification (or lack thereof) and the amount of discretion involved. They found that black drivers were no more likely than white drivers to report clear-cut “traffic safety stops” (e.g., for running a red light or stop sign, driving at night with headlights off, or exceeding the speed limit by seven or more miles an hour) but were nearly three times as likely to report seemingly pretextual “investigatory stops” (e.g., for an unilluminated license plate, driving too slowly, or no reason mentioned by the officer).
During investigatory stops, Epp and his colleagues reported, black drivers were five times as likely as white drivers to be searched. They were also more likely to be handcuffed and threatened with arrest, and more likely to describe the officer’s demeanor as rude, hostile, or insulting. Blacks perceived investigatory stops as less legitimate than traffic safety stops, while whites made no such distinction. The more stops black drivers had experienced, the less they trusted the police, an effect that was not apparent among white drivers.”
“No matter how you look at it, the American criminal justice system is riddled with biases. As the Washington Post’s Radley Balko cataloged, we know that black people are nearly twice as likely to be pulled over and more likely to be searched once they’re stopped even though they’re less likely to have contraband; and that unarmed black people are more than three times as likely to be shot by police as unarmed whites.”
“Let’s think about the Floyd case. Before we get to the killing, let’s think about the arrest. The store owner called the police and said that someone had tried to pass a fake $20 bill. The police respond, and what they do is virtually impossible to imagine happening to a white person. What they do is to approach Mr. Floyd’s car like he’s a violent thug. They order Mr. Floyd and the passengers to exit the car. One officer has his hand on his gun. They put Mr. Floyd in handcuffs. When he falls to the ground, they leave him on the ground in handcuffs, and then, as the whole world knows, they hold him down by his back and knee and legs for 10 minutes until he dies. I just can’t imagine that happening to a white person over a $20 bill.”
“Part of the evidence that the system was designed this way, and one of the reasons it recurs over and over again, is because a lot of the conduct that people of color complain about is totally legal. So I don’t think the case against the officers in the Floyd case is a slam-dunk by any means. The defense will be that their use of force was reasonable. And they have a case to make. They don’t have a great case, given that Mr. Floyd was handcuffed, but what they will say is that he was resisting arrest and they used reasonable force to subdue him. And obviously there comes a point where the reasonableness of that force is extinguished by the fact that his body is lying limp and motionless on the ground. But up until then, I think they have an argument that what they were doing was legal.
Outside of that case, in theory, the power that police have is unreal. I have a police officer buddy who comes and visits my criminal law class, and to demonstrate how much power he has, he invites my students to go on a ride-along in his car, to see what it’s like to patrol the streets of DC. He plays a game with them called Pick That Car. He tells the student, “Pick any car that you want, and I’ll stop it.” So the student will say, “How about that white Camry over there.”
He’s a good cop. He waits until he has a legal reason. But he says that he could follow any car, and after five minutes or three blocks, the driver will commit some traffic infraction, and then under the law he has the power to stop the car, to order the driver and the passengers to get out of the car. If he has reasonable suspicion that they might be armed or dangerous, he could touch their bodies, he can frisk them, he can ask to search their car. And it’s totally legal. That’s an example of the extraordinary power that police have.”
“A hundred years from now, when people want to know what it was like to be alive in 2020, the Ferguson report is one of the things they’ll look at. It’s this amazing synthesis of data and stories. The data includes the fact that every single time the police used a dog in Ferguson, they used it against a black person.”
“So there’s one story in there in which a woman calls the police because her boyfriend’s beating her up. By the time the police get there, he’s gone. The police look around the apartment and they say, “Does he live here?” And she says, “Yes, he does.” The police say, “You’re under arrest for occupancy permit violation, because his name isn’t on the lease.” When that happened to another woman in Ferguson, she said she would never call the police again, she didn’t care if she was being killed. Again, this is how the police do black people and brown people. They don’t treat white people like this, certainly not as systematically as they do black and brown people.”
“I think a lot of people go into the work because they really want to help communities, and they really want to make a difference, and this belief is based on my experience as a prosecutor working with police officers of all backgrounds and of all races. So I don’t think that police officers are especially racist. But I do think we give them tools and authority in a context that leads them to deploy it unjustly against people of color.”
“black women across the country are 320 percent more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. In Buncombe County, where Asheville is located, black babies were nearly four times as likely as white babies to die before their first birthday. These woeful statistics cut across economic and educational lines, as pregnant black women with a college degree die at five times the rate of their white counterparts. Experts say the causes are complex and bound up with the stress of living in a society that discriminates against people of color—from a lack of diversity in the medical profession to implicit bias in the way providers treat patients. In 2017, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said maternal health disparities “ cannot be reversed without addressing racial bias,” adding that “structural and institutional racism contribute to and exacerbate these biases.””