Official Stats: US Cops Kill 1,000, Wound 50,000, Every Year


Photo: LA Times

In a fascinating article discussing the need and possible approaches to reducing police shooting of civilians in the US, the New York Times noted that every year, for the past several, at least, police in the US have killed close to 1,000 civilians and wounded some 50,000 others.

Many of these incidents involve traffic stops – situations where the law allows cops great discretion in how they approach stopped vehicles and in the ways they interact with stopped motorists. Hardly surprisingly, the author suggests ways stops can be reduced in number – more than 62.9 million U.S. residents age 16 or older, or 26% of the population, had one or more contacts with police during 2011 a sizable share of them in traffic stops, according to the US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics – and a couple of ways ‘stop procedures’ can be modified to reduce risks to the stoppers and the stopped.

But as a frightening number of incidents over the past couple of years have demonstrated, there are many other ways should-be-simple, mutually safe police/civilian encounters can turn deadly.

While some of them represent incidents where cops have, or think they have, legitimate reasons to fear the person they shoot, more often than not they result from poor police training and, it must be said, extreme reactions by civilians to the mere presence of a police officer or some action of that officer that was not necessarily, in-and-of-itself, threatening.

Sadly, a high proportion of individuals who are shot by a police officer are young African Americans – or members of other non-Caucasian minorities. The problem is so severe in some areas that African American parents feel compelled to have what they call “the talk” with their young men – advising them how to avoid confrontations with law enforcement officers and, if they are confronted, how to avoid having the situation escalate.

Young Philandro Castile, while ‘driving while black,’ was stopped at least 49 times, all for minor offenses, in a 13-year period before, on the last pull-over, he was shot and killed.

That is a sad commentary on attitudes and occurrences in the US, which has the unenviable reputation of being the most violent society, overall, in the world.

The Times article is well worth a read, as are the others we’ve linked to.


Israeli Court Knocks El Al For Gender Discrimination

el al plane photo

In a case that almost didn’t get brought to court, Israel’s national airline, El Al, has been convicted of gender discrimination when a woman was asked to take a different seat because an ultra-orthodox man didn’t want to sit next to her.

That once-common practice, which caters to a whim of someone from a sect with otherworldly-strict beliefs, was brought down by a suit filed by a holocaust survivor who originally intended to ignore the affront. But a couple of weeks after her flight from Newark to Tel Aviv was marred by the incident, Renee Rabinowitz, 81, attended an event where a representative of the Israel Religious Action Center discussed IRAC’s campaign against airlines’ practice of accommodating what Rabinowitz described as “a Haredi-looking [ultra orthodox] gentleman”. Such individuals are members of a group representing the social and cultural interests of fervently religious Jews. Created in response to escalating assimilation and secularization within worldwide Jewry, they aim to preserve and maintain Torah-bound Judaism, both on the individual and collective level.

But in refusing to sit next to a woman on, for example, an airplane, “a passenger asking to move their seat because of their gender will qualify as discrimination, and as such will be prohibited,” the Israeli court said in an English-language statement.

More specifically, The Jerusalem Post reported, “Requesting a seat change on an airplane before or after takeoff, based on a passenger’s gender, constitutes a breach of the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, [Services and Entry into Public Places Law],” ruled Judge Dana Cohen-Lekach of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

The JP website added, “The phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox men insisting on not sitting next to unrelated women on air flights has developed into a familiar pattern in recent years, with such demands frequently causing problems and delays for airlines due to the refusal of such men to take their seats before takeoff.”

El Al has said it will take the ruling seriously, and the airline is expected to modify its rules and retrain flight attendants within the 45-day period specified by the court.

The Guardian quoted the airline as saying, “The sides reached an agreement that the airline’s procedures would be clarified to its employees. The court validated this agreement and the company will respect the verdict.”

Child- and Gang-Rapes Are Running Rampant in India


The family of a five-year-old girl who was raped stage a protest on Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road seeking treatment for her at a private hospital in Gurgaon, India, and fast disposal of the case.

Of all the many and oh-so-varied cultures in the world, India’s seems to be among the least appreciative of the concept enshrined in the US Declaration of Independence, that: “All men are created equal.” Women there, only second to the second-class treatment of women in predominantly Moslem countries, far too often are made victims of brutal rapes. Even, even more sadly, when they are but children.

Two recent reports on Newser (and here) paint a horrid picture of the problem: A 10-year-old being raped, made pregnant, then having to struggle to get (as she finally did) permission to get aborted, and another couple of women getting gang raped – one in a moving car (the mind boggles!) – in a culture that, in too many instances, still also accepts revenge killings.

I am not a religious person, and I have trouble getting my mind about how, and why, practitioners of various religions – any of them – faithfully accepting, as they do, what they do.

My wife and I watched a “Law & Order” show recently about a case where a super-religious girl was taken advantage of – raped, in short – by a fellow believer in her ‘faith’ that him having sex with her – “curative sex” – would free her of her desire for another woman. Guess what? The spiritual leader who encouraged his flock to so behave, ended up, as the encourager of illegal actions, in prison. So, of course, did the rapist. And the saddest news what, they both believed they did nothing wrong.

This Should Never (Ever!) Have Been Necessary – But, Sadly, It Was



The Washington Post has reported on – and posted a video of – a nine-year-old girl testifying before the Charlotte VA City Council against the mistreatment of African-Americans by the city’s police – and “y’all” in general. This should never have had to happen.

But a sense of racial injustice has become so severe in Charlotte, Virginia’s largest city, that it prompted a nine-year-old to stand up, not before a classroom of her peers, which is always hard enough at her age, but before a collection of adults who have the power, but apparently not the will or the guts, to make a difference. To bring the police department to heel; to make whatever efforts are required to work with civic groups – including churches of all types, fraternal organizations, and whatever other groups exist, particularly in predominantly Black neighborhoods – and to work in whatever way necessary to change mindsets that, in one way or another lead to situations like this.

‘This,’ in this instance, was the shooting to death of a Black citizen by a (coincidentally white) police officer. Neither of two videos of the event released, under pressure from the public, by the police department clarified whether the victim was carrying a gun, as police contend, or not. A cell phone video shot and quickly released by a family member similarly failed to clarify what prompted the officer to what sounded, in the family member’s video, like close to half a dozen shots into a man standing less than ten feet away. (All else aside, that doesn’t speak well for the officer’s confidence in the Charlotte P.D.’s target practice standards!)

(An interesting, possibly critical point: The Charlotte P.D. has admitted that one officer failed to turn on his body camera when he responded to the scene. That’s a violation of department practices, and a pretty serious, we’d reckon. I mean, police departments are spending tens of thousands of dollars equipping their officers with those cams and shoulder mics (which, by the way, were being used – the mics, not the cams – by the Metropolitan Police — the ‘bobbies’ — in London as long ago as the 1980’s!)

I recently attended a church-sponsored ‘block party’ in my small Virginia town. Along with the face-painter, the bounce tent and several other attractions for kids, there was an ‘example’ of a local police department car – with doors open, and an unspoken invitation for kids to climb in either the back or the front. And climb they did: The car was seldom empty throughout this hot August afternoon, and the by-standing police officer readily answered any questions any kid had.

An incredible example of ‘community relations’ work that, in effect, cost the town nothing, as it is common practice to make an officer and car available just in case there’s a need at most, if not all, of this town’s public and open-to-the-public events, as this one was.

In the course of setting up an interview for tomorrow with our town’s police chief – I write for the local paper and another one – he noted that he’d recently met with officials of police departments in Tempe AZ and Dallas TX. He said that the more he gets out and about on visits like that – he was set to lecture in each of those to cities – “the more I find community support behind what police departments are doing, and I’m encouraged by that.”

That is good, but, sadly, not good enough: I fear that the more police departments militarize – accept from the U.S. Army armored vehicles and the like the military no longer wants or needs (because, no doubt, they’ve graduated to even more frightful, and frightening ‘tools’) – the more police officers will come to view themselves as ‘combatants’ of one sort or another. Meaning, in effect, despite whatever efforts their communities undertake to reduce the incidence of violence, individual cops will fall back on the old ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ formula. Too often, of late, a deadly formula.

When police officers in small (and ever smaller) towns get to access, free or at bargain basement rates, ‘weapons of war’, in the form of armored vehicles, high tech surveillance and communications gear and whatever, they are going to want, child-like, to try out their new ‘toys’. And one way or another, in controlled environments or on the streets, try them they will.

The generation joining police departments today grew up playing video games, too often violent ones. And while many of the early and current video game fans would deny they are victims, many among them come to have a diminished sense of responsibility, or ability to distinguish, regarding the respective relative to push-a-button versus pull-a-trigger reality.

Zianna Oliphant’s comments before the Charlotte City Council should – if they haven’t already  – ‘gone viral’, whatever that means. (I don’t understand how that happens and wouldn’t care in the least unless something I said did so, and resulted in lots more followers of this ( or my other blog (

(Zianna’s video isn’t long, but if you don’t want to take the time to watch it, as you surely should, here’s the essence: Y’all [whomever she meant that to include] are treating Black people bad – however you want to interpret that.


“We are black people and we shouldn’t have to feel like this,” Zianna said, sobbing. “We shouldn’t have to protest because y’all are treating us wrong. We do this because we need to – and have rights,” she said.


What a sad, but hopeful, day: When a nine-year-old (some media have said she’s ten) is so distressed that she has to trek to City Hall and put herself in a role she probably never imagined playing -that of ‘interpreter’, or spokesperson, for an under-served,  under-appreciated community. Some 13.5% of the population there, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A minority, yes, but an important one — that does, among other things, low-wage job members of the majority refuse to. Too often collecting some kind of ‘benefits’ instead.

If you want a clear (as any) picture of how sad this current presidential election campaign, and how inadequately the candidates have failed to address, or propose realistic solutions to major structural and societal issues in this country – including the issue that inspired that brave nine year old to so eloquently speak out as she did – see this clip, from Steven Colbert’s live show Monday night. He sums the whole mess up wonderfully, in one word.

Regardless of your preconceived ideas about who’s right and who’s not (but not necessarily) left, watch it.