Citizens Forcing Police Accountability Is Working: Killer Cops Prosecuted at Record Rate

A once apathetic society, which had become so unquestioningly content with the status quo, is beginning to wake up. For over a decade, Americans stood by as police killings went largely unchecked. No one to count how many citizens had their lives taken by cops. But the days of unaccountable government killings seem to be numbered as killer cops have awakened a sleeping dragon.


Over the past two years, with Ferguson, Missouri, playing a key role, the American people have realized that some police officers are taking lives at an alarming rate — and they have taken action. Multiple independent sources, fed up with the failure of the federal government to track police killings, have begun tracking these killings independently. The Guardian, and now the Washington Post have been airing the dirty laundry the feds have kept under wraps for so long.

Swarms of peaceful protesters have taken to the streets in the last two years as well, with people demanding that killer cops be charged. A new report out of Reuters suggests that to an extent, this demand is being met.

According to Reuters, 

The number of U.S. police officers charged in fatal shootings has hit the highest level in a decade in 2015, new research shows, driven by greater scrutiny over use of deadly force.

Public outrage over the deaths of black men at the hands of police in New York, Missouri and elsewhere have spurred prosecutions. Police body cameras and bystanders’ videos also have helped bring cases, but even with the upturn, only a small percentage of police killings result in charges, lawyers and analysts say.

A dozen officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter this year resulting from shootings, up from an average of about five a year from 2005 to 2014, said Philip Stinson, an associate professor of criminology at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University. He sifted court records and media reports as part of research for the Justice Department on police crimes and arrests.

The above numbers do not include the six officers charged in the murder of Freddie Grey, as four of them have been charged only with manslaughter.

After watching grand jury after grand jury failing to indict killer cops—with some of the shootings caught on video—this spike in police officers being charged is heartening. However, it does not go nearly far enough. For every cop who is charged in the killing of an innocent victim, dozens more are not. For example, on Wednesday, a grand jury decided that Deputy Todd Raible, who shot and killed Derek Cruice did so because he is an apparent “hero” in the war on drugs, and they decided not to indict him.

While this spike in police prosecutions is not as high as we’d like to see, it shows that when Americans cast aside their apathetic tendencies, positive change can happen.

While holding police officers accountable for murder is a good thing, it is still only attacking a symptom of this country’s much larger sickness. As long as we continue to ignore the causes of police killings and gang violence, we will continue to see police killings and gang violence. It is time Americans stopped ignoring the war on drugs, which is the cause of much of this country’s ills. The drug war and subsequent recidivism it creates are the essential ingredients in police shootings and most gun violence. End the drug war and police killings will plummet — and so will gang violence. 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close