It has emerged that the number of United States police officers charged with fatal shootings of innocent civilians hit a record high in 2015, with an increase of almost 300% from previous years.
Although some observers believe that the number should have exceeded the 300%, due to the frequent spate of killings of innocent unarmed citizens by the police in 2015, activists say it is a sign of awakening by the country to put a stop to police violence against innocent citizens.
2015 recorded a number of protests by citizens, largely by African-Americans against the use of deadly force by police officers against the Black community, in the country. It even led to the prominence of the movement known as Black Lives Matter, which was established in 2013 to campaign against cops’ violence toward black people.
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Analysts say police body cameras and bystanders’ videos helped; with an increase in reckless officers themselves standing before the law last year.
An associate professor of criminology at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, Philip Stinson who authored the statistics, said the figure increased from an average of about five a year from 2005 to 2014. Mr Stinson sifted through court records and media reports as part of the research for the Justice Department on police crimes and arrests. The following were some of the incidents captured in the statistics.
In August 2015, the Free Thought Project reported that the two Albuquerque officers who murdered James Boyd on camera, would be charged with murder. That same month, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported that two former East Point police officers had been indicted on charges; they murdered a 24-year-old father by repeatedly using their tasers on him while he was handcuffed and sitting in a creek.
In the same August again, the Washington Post reported that a former Fairfax County police officer was charged with second-degree murder, nearly two years after he shot an unarmed Springfield man who stood with his hands raised in the doorway of his home.
In July, Officer Ray Tensing was officially charged with murder after his body cam showed an unarmed man killed, who simply tried to drive away. In June, Officer Michael Slager was indicted after he was captured on video shooting Walter Scott in the back, all over a broken tail light.
In November, Officers Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse, Jr. were charged and are currently being held, each with a $1 million bail for the murder of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis and the attempted murder of his father, Chris Few.
Also in November, it was announced that Jason Van Dyke, the cop who killed Laquan McDonald by shooting him 16 times as he walked away, would be charged with murder. In fact, Van Dyke became the 15th officer in America to face such charges in 2015, a 300% increase from 2014, according to the statistics released by Mr Stinson. In ten of those 15 cases, the officers were seen on video killing their victims.
Although as a former cop himself, Stinson was blunt with the truth. He said he doubts that if there had not been video evidence to prove the recklessness of the indicted officers beyond reasonable doubt, it would have been difficult for officials to prosecute such officers.
“If you take the cases with the video away, you are left with what we would expect to see over the past 10 years – about five cases. You have to wonder if there would have been charges if there wasn’t video evidence,” Mr Said.
The Free Thought Project reports that the sentiment echoed by Stinson is true, and that even in some cases that there were video evidence against officers; officials were still reluctant to prosecute the officers.