What Will It Take to Actually Convict a Cop?

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Digesting police violence against innocent civilians is a complicated and difficult process. Perhaps the only thing more difficult, however, is reconciling the reality that, even as repeated violations by law enforcement continue to occur, there seems almost no chance that cops will ever face any level of significant accountability from America’s two-tiered justice system.

The numbers are simply staggering. While there is no federal database that records police-related shootings or deaths (problem No. 1), some sources have determined that despite annual police-related killings averaging well into the hundreds—we have already 600 people killed by police just halfway into 2016 alone—since 2005, we have seen just 13 police convictions.

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Thirteen convictions. In over 10 years, spanning the deaths of several thousand people killed through encounters with those sworn to protect and serve.

Certainly every death that occurs at the hands of police does not warrant a criminal prosecution or conviction. It goes without saying that law enforcement has an incredibly difficult job that requires a unique combination of instincts, discretion and sound judgment. But, just as every case doesn’t warrant an officer being indicted and tried, let alone convicted, it’s unimaginable that more aren’t. In 2015, police killed at least 102 unarmed black people. That is a rate of nearly twice a week. Unarmed. Nearly 30 percent of black people killed by police had no weapon, and that’s just in instances where the ultimate result was death of a suspect. So police are using deadly force nearly 30 percent of the time when dealing with people who aren’t even in possession of anything that would have posed a threat to those officers’ lives.

So, why the low conviction numbers?

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