As of 2021, at least 34 states and the District of Columbia had passed laws related to the public disclosure of body-worn camera footage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Chicago, dashboard camera video captured Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager, 16 times in October 2014. That video was played repeatedly for jurors, and Mr. Van Dyke became the first Chicago patrolman to be convicted of murder in almost 50 years.
Is use of force standardized across all police forces?
No, there are no national standards. There are about 18,000 police departments in the country, 80 percent of which have 50 officers or fewer, and each follows its own policy.
Are officers ever charged? And are they convicted?
Charges against officers are typically rare, but prosecutors have charged officers in several cities who were seen on camera using deadly force.
The officer who fatally shot Philando Castile, a 32-year-old Black man driving with his girlfriend and daughter in a suburb of Minnesota in 2016, was acquitted of manslaughter. The officer, who shot Mr. Castile five times at close range, killing him in the seat of his parked car, said he fired his weapon out of fear that Mr. Castile might have been reaching for a gun, a fear that was mistaken.
In Minneapolis, Mr. Chauvin could not defend his actions by claiming that Mr. Floyd’s suffocation resulted from a split-second decision because video images and witness accounts showed that he continued to kneel on Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes.
Does racial bias play a role?
The many critics of the split-second standard cite a litany of police shootings of Black people. They argue that implicit racial bias leads officers to fear potential danger from Black people more than white people in similar situations, and that it drives them to use deadly force disproportionately against Black people. Because the standard hinges on the police officer’s perception of danger, critics say, it leads to racial disparities.
What are some proposed changes?
More than 30 states have passed new police oversight and reform laws — over 140 in all — according to a New York Times analysis of data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many of the laws — restricting the use of force, overhauling disciplinary systems, creating civilian review boards and requiring transparency around misconduct cases — give states far more influence over policing practices that have typically been left to local governments. A few states, including California, have even changed the legal standard for when officers can use deadly force from being “reasonable” to “necessary.”
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