Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Armed Police (Trigger Happy)

Recent Events


THE shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, is a reminder that civilians—innocent or guilty—are far more likely to be shot by police in America than in any other rich country. In 2012, according to data compiled by the FBI, 410 Americans were “justifiably” killed by police—409 with guns. That figure may well be an underestimate.  
Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012 the figure was just one. Even after adjusting for the smaller size of Britain’s population, British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014 the police force of one small American city, Albuquerque in New Mexico, shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.

The explanation for this gap is simple. In Britain, guns are rare. Only specialist firearms officers carry them; and criminals rarely have access to them. The last time a British police officer was killed by a firearm on duty was in 2012, in a brutal case in Manchester. The annual number of murders by shooting is typically less than 50. Police shootings are enormously controversial. The shooting of Mark Duggan, a known gangster, which in 2011 started riots across London, led to a fiercely debated inquest. Last month, a police officer was charged with murder over a shooting in 2005. The reputation of the Metropolitan Police’s armed officers is still barely recovering from the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian, in the wake of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London.

In America, by contrast, it is hardly surprising that cops resort to their weapons more frequently. In 2013, 30 cops were shot and killed—just a fraction of the 9,000 or so murders using guns that happen each year. Add to that a hyper-militarised police culture and a deep history of racial strife and you have the reason why so many civilians are shot by police officers. Unless America can either reduce its colossal gun ownership rates or fix its deep social problems, shootings of civilians by police—justified or not—seem sure to continue.
Police Shooting Missouri 


If Ferguson Were In The UK, Michael Brown Would Almost Certainly Be Alive

Cases like the shooting of Michael Brown test the limits of when police can turn to their guns. But even law enforcement experts and authorities who question the shooting of Brown stand by the U.S. policy that police sometimes must open fire.
Take the case of Kajieme Powell. He was shot dead by police a few days after Brown in Missouri for reportedly carrying a small knife and acting erratically after police called to report that he had stolen some sodas and a pastry from a convenience store. Video capturing the footage from start to finish shocked Americans, but some experts say the shooting was standard American practice. “All of my training and all of my background tells me that is a justifiable police shooting against it looks like a mentally ill young man,” said David Long, a criminal justice professor who conducted firearms trainings for federal agents.
   Full article at Mint Press News Desk |


Racism And Unchecked Police Violence: An American Epidemic

Communities are uniting in their lack of faith in police and standing up to law enforcement, but underlying issues like racism still need to be addressed if communities like Ferguson and the nation as a whole are to move forward.

U.N. urges U.S. to stop police brutality after Missouri shooting

(Reuters) - The U.N. racism watchdog urged the United States on Friday to halt the excessive use of force by police after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman touched off riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
Minorities, particularly African Americans, are victims of disparities, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said after examining the U.S. record.
"Racial and ethnic discrimination remains a serious and persistent problem in all areas of life from de facto school segregation, access to health care and housing," Noureddine Amir, CERD committee vice chairman, told a news briefing.

Full article

Defiance and despair

 Here is a clip from The Economist which I have commented on andd which was allueded to by Jim Campbell's comments
Yet most of the demonstrations—in St Louis and elsewhere—were non-violent acts of civil disobedience. Many marched and chanted in protest against a law-enforcement system that often seems biased against people who are poor and non-white. The troubling way Ferguson’s police handled the Mr Brown’s shooting and its aftermath is symptomatic of larger problems of race, class and law enforcement in the country, says Eugene O’Donnell, a former policeman turned lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. America’s police officers are often poorly paid and badly trained, and many resort to heavy-handed tactics, often involving racial profiling, in their patrols of city streets. “Police departments are frequently not good at their core function,” says Mr O’Donnell. “Ferguson is not an outlier.”  

The full article can be found on

We shouldn't talk about Ferguson without talking about guns

The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, reveals many things about America. One of them that has not yet received adequate attention is that there is a strong case for a form of gun control that is much stricter than anything that's remotely plausible in the context of American politics.
This is true if you think Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson should have been found guilty of a crime. But in many ways it's even more true if you think he's innocent of any wrongdoing. A system in which legal police shootings of unarmed civilians are a common occurrence is a system that has some serious flaws.
In this case, the drawback is a straightforward consequence of America's approach to firearms. A well-armed citizenry required an even-better-armed constabulary. Widespread gun ownership creates a systematic climate of fear on the part of the police. The result is a quantity of police shootings that, regardless of the facts of any particular case, is just staggeringly high. Young black men, in particular, are paying the price for America's gun culture.

Trigger happy Britain? How police shootings compare


            Another Channel 4  article compares UK police shootings to other parts of the world

But how common is it for British to police to open fire?

In short – very rare. Police officers in England and Wales opened fire just five times for the year 2011/12. Out of these incidents, two people were killed, including Duggan.
In the four years to 2012, armed officers officers opened fire 18 times - nine fatally. No-one was shot dead by police in 2012/13.
The two fatalities in 2011/12 emerged from 12,550 operations during the same period, in which firearms officers were on the scene and had been given authorisation to open fire, even though they did not, according to the latest Home Office stats.
The authorisation factor is important, because this is where British police differ to most of the rest of the world. Aside from Ireland, all major police forces in Europe routinely carry firearms, along with the US, Canada and Australia. New Zealand is another exception.

See full article


Latest - Breaking News


Antonio Martin shooting: Officer kills armed 18-year-old near Ferguson

Violent protests broke out in suburban St. Louis after another black 18-year-old was fatally shot by a white police officer. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the officer was questioning the 18-year-old and another man about a theft late Tuesday at a convenience store in Berkeley when the young man pulled a 9mm handgun on him. The officer stumbled backward but fired three shots, one of which struck the victim, Belmar said.

Berkeley is just a few miles from Ferguson, Missouri, where a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, on Aug. 9. 

Violent protests break out in suburban St. Louis

What are your views?