Police Under Scrutiny

October 9, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 36
Can law enforcement restore public trust?
By Christina L. Lyons


Police officers fatally shoot an average of nearly 1,000 people annually in the United States, and Blacks, Hispanics, the mentally ill and the poor are more likely to be stopped by police than whites. Increasingly, violent encounters with minorities are being captured on camera and igniting racial justice protests across the country. Many police unions and defense lawyers caution those viral images distort reality and say that the vast majority of officers behave ethically. Lawmakers, criminal justice experts and civil rights leaders disagree on whether laws should restrict police use of force, or if some law enforcement funding should be diverted to other community resources that could better handle citizens' disagreements or emergencies. Many Americans want police officers to be held more accountable — particularly in court — when they injure or kill a suspect. But officers and legal experts say officers must assess threats quickly in order to protect themselves and others, and courts should give them the benefit of the doubt.

Police in Santa Monica, Calif., watch after tear gas is fired into a crowd of Black Lives Matters demonstrators on May 31. (Getty Images/Mario Tama)
Police watch after tear gas is fired into a crowd of Black Lives Matter demonstrators on May 31 in Santa Monica, Calif. The nation experienced a summer of protests over the killings of Black Americans by police. (Getty Images/Mario Tama)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Law Enforcement
Oct. 09, 2020  Police Under Scrutiny
Apr. 21, 2017  High-Tech Policing
Sep. 16, 2016  Jailing Debtors
Jun. 07, 2016  Crime and Police Conduct
Dec. 12, 2014  Police Tactics
Apr. 06, 2012  Police Misconduct
Oct. 14, 2011  Eyewitness Testimony
May 06, 2011  Business Ethics
Mar. 17, 2000  Policing the Police
Nov. 24, 1995  Police Corruption
Sep. 06, 1991  Police Brutality
Apr. 19, 1974  Police Innovation
Sep. 02, 1966  Police Reforms
Jan. 12, 1954  Federal Police Activity
Apr. 01, 1932  Proposed Expansions of Federal Police Activity
Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Issues
Civil Rights Movement
Civil Rights: African Americans
Congress Actions
Conservatism and Liberalism
Crime and Law Enforcement
Domestic Issues
Freedom of Speech and Press
General Social Trends
Hate Groups
Internet and Social Media
Party Politics
Protest Movements
Race and Hate Crimes