The Persistence of Police Killings

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During a six-month span in 2014, four separate police killings of African-Americans grabbed the country’s attention. Eric Garner died after being put in a chokehold in New York, while Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Laquan McDonald in Chicago; and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland were all shot.

The killings sparked a debate about how to reduce deaths caused by the police. In response, more police departments directed their officers to wear body cameras. Some introduced new training programs. Civil-rights activists and politicians began paying more attention to the issue.

Six years later, however, there is no sign of meaningful change, at least on the national level. The number of police killings has hovered around 1,100 every year since 2013, according to Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. (A Washington Post database shows a similar pattern.)

Now the subject is back in the spotlight.

On Monday night, a Minneapolis man named George Floyd died after a police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck while he lay on the ground. The case was the latest in which the official police report presented a different story from a cellphone video that later emerged. In the video, Floyd can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” again and again.

Four officers involved in the arrest were fired yesterday. “Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” Minneapolis’s mayor, Jacob Frey, said. “For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes.”

[Read more about George Floyd and Derek Chauvin once working together.]

What, if anything, might finally succeed in reducing police killings? I thought it would be worth sharing a few suggestions from around the country that I found while trying to make sense of the latest case:

  • Samuel Sinyangwe of Campaign Zero, a group formed after Brown’s death: Restrict chokeholds, train officers to de-escalate conflicts and prohibit them from shooting at moving vehicles, among other steps.

  • A 2019 California law: Change the standard for when an officer can legally use deadly force, from one based on a “reasonable belief” of imminent danger to one in which a later review finds it “necessary.”

  • Jennifer Cobbina, Michigan State University: Implicit-bias training for officers and “frank engagement between law enforcement and the people they serve to address tensions, grievances and misconceptions.”

  • David French, National Review: Acknowledge that “many controversial police shootings are lawful and justifiable” but also stop accepting excuses and cover-ups for those that are not.

  • Chuck Wexler, Police Executive Research Forum: Train officers to intervene when a colleague “may be on the brink of using excessive force,” as Los Angeles and New Orleans are doing.

An emergency program created by Congress to replace school meals during the coronavirus outbreak has reached only about 15 percent of eligible children, according to an analysis by The Times. One problem: Outdated state computers.

Other virus developments:

Twitter said yesterday that it would not remove Trump’s tweets spreading a baseless conspiracy theory that the MSNBC host Joe Scarborough killed Lori Klausutis, a former congressional staff member who died in 2001 of a medical condition.

Klausutis’s widower had pleaded with Twitter to remove the posts, writing in a letter, “I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the president of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife — and perverted it for perceived political gain.”

A Twitter first: The company added a fact-checking link yesterday below two Trump tweets that made false claims about mail-in ballots.

Senior military officials plan to present Trump with an option to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan before the November election, at least six months ahead of schedule. But commanders are expected to advise against that option, out of concern that it could doom the peace deal reached this year with the Taliban.

An internal Facebook analysis found that the platform was helping polarize the country, but senior executives decided to shelve the analysis and not take action, The Wall Street Journal reported. One presentation given to senior executives warned that “if left unchecked,” Facebook would feed users “more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention & increase time on the platform.”

Kevin Roose, a technology columnist at The Times, explains: “It raises the possibility that these presentations — and others like them — will come to be seen as a smoking gun for Facebook, the way that tobacco and oil companies had known about the hazards of their products years before they publicly admitted it.”

  • The National Hockey League announced a plan to finish its virus-shortened season. The top 24 teams will compete in a round-robin playoff, likely hosted in empty arenas in two cities.

  • A white woman in New York was fired from her job after a video captured her calling the police on an African-American man in Central Park who asked her to leash her dog, as required.

  • Jimmy Cobb, a jazz drummer who was part of Miles Davis’s seminal album “Kind of Blue,” died Sunday at 91.

Two NASA astronauts are set to blast off to the International Space Station today. But it will be different from past launches: This will be the first one run by a private company — SpaceX, founded by the entrepreneur Elon Musk. Kenneth Chang, a science reporter, offers some perspective:

Back in 1968, Pan Am started issuing memberships for its “First Moon Flights” club to space enthusiasts hoping to someday book a commercial flight there. It was a fanciful promotion — the membership card was free — but more than 93,000 people signed up. Pan Am is long out of business, and we’re still a long way before someone can buy a ticket to the moon, but the SpaceX launch is the first real step toward that dream.

Although NASA has been involved in working with SpaceX, this is SpaceX’s operation. In the future, NASA will simply pay the going rate for a ticket to the space station and not be involved with running its own space transportation system to low-Earth orbit.

More: The launch, scheduled for 4:33 p.m. Eastern time, will be streaming live on NASA’s website starting at noon.

Pepperoni rolls, cold noodles, New England seafood chowder — there are some meals that just taste better coming from a favorite restaurant.

Four years ago, Brit Bennett released her debut novel, “The Mothers,” centered on friends growing up in a small-town black community in California. Now she returns with the highly anticipated “The Vanishing Half,” about twin sisters who lead diverging lives, one as a black woman and the other passing as white.

“Bennett is a remarkably assured writer who mostly sidesteps the potential for melodrama inherent in a form built upon secrecy and revelation,” Parul Sehgal, a book critic for The Times, wrote in a review. “The past laps at the present in short flashbacks, never weighing down the quick current of a story that covers almost 20 years.”

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. The word “ervaringsdeskundige” — Flemish for “experience expert” — appeared for the first time in The Times yesterday, as noted by the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the threat that the coronavirus is posing to the U.S. Postal Service.

Lauren Leatherby, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at

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