Police escalate traffic stops, leading to disproportionate fatalities of black people

Last month, an Arizona trooper stopped a man driving a rental car because the car was mistakenly listed as stolen. Although the man complied with the officer’s instructions, the cop threatened to shoot the man and pointed his gun at the man’s 7-year-old child. Read the article here. The driver, who is white, made a Facebook post in which he shared his terrifying experience and encouraged people to support the Black Lives Matter movement. He compares his story to that of Philando Castile, a black man who was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer during a traffic stop. Castile was complying with the officer’s orders, and he had a valid permit for the gun he carried.

These cases show how police traffic stops can violently escalate, turning innocent actions such as renting a car or lawfully carrying a gun into a dangerous confrontation. Last December, the Washington Post published an article—A disproportionate number of black victims in fatal traffic stops—that relied on a database of deadly police shootings to determine that traffic stops are “one of the most common precursors to a fatal police shooting of a black person in 2015.” Sadly, this trend continues; two days after the Arizona man was threatened, Milwaukee erupted in protest when police shot and killed Sylville Smith​, a young black man, after a traffic stop. This trend must be stopped. It is unacceptable for police officers to shoot first and ask questions later. Better training and appropriate discipline are essential to change this dangerous pattern.

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