It has been just over a year since the May 24, 2020 death of 46-year-old Black man George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The event spurred nationwide – and worldwide – protests and a movement to change policing, especially as applied to Black people and other minorities.
What concrete changes has this movement brought about?
According to the ACLU, the problem remains largely unchanged. Police officers still kill, on average, three Americans every day. Black people are three times more likely than whites to be among them, even though they are 1.3 times less likely to be armed when a police-involved death occurs.
America still spends $115 billion a year on policing. Our police are still heavily, even militarily, armed. They disproportionately stop, frisk, arrest, jail, abuse and kill people of color. Alternative solutions to society’s problems remain dramatically underfunded.
What has changed is that the movement to change policing has gained ground and built power. Citizens, advocacy groups, city councils, legislatures and other groups have begun making changes that could make a real difference by preventing police violence:
- Activists succeeded in devesting $840 million in resources from police departments and secured at least $160 million in new, community-based investments
- Armed police were removed from schools in over 25 cities
- Some cities, like Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, have passed sweeping police reforms, such as prohibiting arrests for non-felonies, creating a new, unarmed traffic enforcement division, sending medical and mental health professionals instead of police to mental health calls, and more
- Numerous cities have moved forward with unarmed crisis response teams, restorative justice programs and other alternative approaches to situations that have been handled by police in the past
- Maryland, Colorado and New Mexico repealed qualified immunity for police officers
- At least 17 states passed laws to restrict dangerous police tactics like chokeholds and no-knock warrants. In some cases, these laws made using a chokehold a felony for officers
- Ballot initiatives were passed in 18 cities to strengthen oversight over police
These activities are contrasted by some more negative responses to the Floyd protests:
- At least three states passed laws granting the police additional power to arrest and jail protestors
- Some states passed laws stripping cities of local control over police budgets
- Some laws were passed granting immunity to drivers who unintentionally run over protestors
Progress is steadily being made. Still, police make 10.3 million arrests a year – only 5% of which are for serious felonies. The majority of all police-involved deaths in the U.S. involve mental health calls, traffic violations and other low-level offenses. Black people are killed at 2.4 times the rate of white people.
We still need to fundamentally re-think the way we want to be policed.