The American Civil Liberties Union says fatal police shootings have occurred at the same rate during the first six months of 2020 as they have over the previous five years during that period, but believes the number should be fewer due to restrictions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“As of June 30, 2020, police officers had fatally shot 511 people,” the ACLU said. “This is consistent with each of the previous five years for which we have data — which is somewhat surprising given the significant societal disruptions that have been caused in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Because of stay-at-home orders, social distancing requirements, and police department policies advising officers to initiate fewer investigative contacts, we might have expected fewer fatal police shootings in 2020 relative to years past.”
The ACLU claimed that “most research indicates that crime has decreased or stayed the same during the pandemic,” dismissing anecdotal reporting that gun violence has actually surged this summer amid calls for “defunding the police.”
The study referenced the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, who according to the medical examiner’s report died of a heart attack with fentanyl and methamphetamine in his blood. Floyd’s death triggered protests and riots in numerous cities, with demonstrators claiming it was an example of “systemic racism” in law enforcement.
Using statistics from The Washington Post Fatal Force Database, the ACLU said “the epidemic of police violence has been directly and disproportionately targeted at Black people.” This was in contradiction to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece in June, which used data from the same source, that said the claim of racial bias in law enforcement was a “myth.”
It stated that, among other things, a police officer was 18½ times more likely to be killed by a Black male than an unarmed black male was to be killed by a police officer.
The ACLU report did not specify how many of the 511 people shot by police were Black or white.