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
Feb. 11, 2022  Cultural Appropriation
Jan. 22, 2021  Corporate D&I
Oct. 30, 2020  Systemic Racism
Oct. 16, 2020  Monument Protests
Oct. 09, 2020  Police Under Scrutiny Updated
Aug. 23, 2019  Reparations for Slavery
Sep. 07, 2018  The STEM Gender Gap
Jan. 19, 2018  Future of Puerto Rico
Nov. 17, 2017  Affirmative Action and College Admissions
Jul. 28, 2017  Muslims in America
Mar. 10, 2017  Charter Schools
Sep. 23, 2016  Women in Leadership
Aug. 05, 2016  Diversity in Hollywood
May 13, 2016  Women in Combat
Jan. 08, 2016  Racial Conflict
Dec. 11, 2015  Transgender Rights
May 01, 2015  Community Colleges
Apr. 24, 2015  Native American Youths
Apr. 03, 2015  Latino Voters
Dec. 12, 2014  Police Tactics
Sep. 14, 2007  Racial Diversity in Public Schools Updated
Dec. 12, 2003  Black Colleges
Oct. 10, 1997  Diversity in the Workplace
Jan. 20, 1971  Ethnic America
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