It took the American Civil Liberties Union more than a year to painstakingly research incidents of police-involved deaths in Maryland over a four-year period to come up with a tentative total: 109. It wouldn’t have taken so long, except that Maryland doesn’t currently keep its own numbers on deaths at the hands of police.
ACLU attorney Sonia Kumar told WJZ that the group was “shocked to realize that no one was officially tracking these deaths in any way, and certainly not any way available to the public.”
It is shocking. Certainly, a number doesn’t tell you how many deaths were the result of excessive force or brutality as opposed to the result of police simply following protocol. But we can all agree that a lower number of such deaths is preferable to a higher one, right? And as Kumar says, “there are opportunities to learn from each of these incidents,” even the legally justifiable ones.
For example, the ACLU found that 41 out of the 109 people killed by law enforcement officers “demonstrated possible medical or mental health issues or disability.” Now that we know that, maybe we could develop special training for encounters with the mentally ill or disabled.
But if we don’t even keep track of the number, how can we work on reducing it?
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