The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just published The Most Distinctive Causes of Death by State, 2001-2010. Check out the plum-colored (letter U) states. “Legal intervention” is the most distinctive cause of death in these three. That’s interaction with the po-po, if you didn’t get it:
Any injury sustained as a result of an encounter with any law enforcement official, serving in any capacity at the time of the encounter, whether on-duty or off-duty. Includes: injury to law enforcement official, suspect and bystander.
And if you’ve been keeping up with the news in New Mexico this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
This is a strange set of data. We’re not looking at the most common causes of death, of course. The most common cause of death, almost invariably across the USA, is heart disease. We’re looking at causes of death which are statistically distinct from other states. In short, we’re seeing that police homicides are statistically disproportionate in these three areas.
Francis Boscoe, who co-authored this study, said of “legal intervention” and the three states: “As I’ve been telling other reporters: there are 51 stories here, some are more interesting than others. This maybe is one of the more interesting ones.”
And indeed it is. Even by the standards of the police state itself, New Mexico is pushing it. The U.S. Department of Justice issued a report condemning law enforcement in Albuquerque:
Albuquerque police officers too often use deadly force in an unconstitutional manner in their use of firearms. To illustrate, of the 20 officer-involved shootings resulting in fatalities from 2009 to 2012, we concluded that a majority of these shootings were unconstitutional. Albuquerque police officers often use deadly force in circumstances where there is no imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to officers or others.
That’s saying something, because the way Graham v. Connor is interpreted almost any law enforcement homicide is rubber-stamped in the courts. And, at the same time, it means nothing. It means nothing because “that’s unconstitutional” is the political and legal equivalent of “that’s not fair.” This is why despite twenty “unconstitutional” shootings, twenty police officers were not arrested and convicted of crimes. Twenty police officers are still roaming the streets to kill again.
There is a chasm between the law as it is actually applied, and the law as we wish it to be.
Let’s also keep in mind that these are not merely “interesting stories” as Boscoe put it. These are real people. Innocent people. Real, innocent people who were killed by police officers. In the case of individuals like Christopher Torres, innocent people with mental illnesses who were killed in their own back yards. Alternately, innocent persons such as James Boyd, shot in the back while laying on the ground.