Sunday, May 16

The Persistence of Police Killings

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During a six-month span in 2014, four separate police killings of African-Americans grabbed the country’s attention. Eric Garner died after being put in a chokehold in New York, while Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Laquan McDonald in Chicago; and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland were all shot.

The killings sparked a debate about how to reduce deaths caused by the police. In response, more police departments directed their officers to wear body cameras. Some introduced new training programs. Civil-rights activists and politicians began paying more attention to the issue.

Six years later, however, there is no sign of meaningful change, at least on the national level. The number of police killings has hovered around 1,100 every year since 2013, according to Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. (A Washington Post database shows a similar pattern.)

What, if anything, might finally succeed in reducing police killings? I thought it would be worth sharing a few suggestions from around the country that I found while trying to make sense of the latest case:

  • Samuel Sinyangwe of Campaign Zero, a group formed after Brown’s death: Restrict chokeholds, train officers to de-escalate conflicts and prohibit them from shooting at moving vehicles, among other steps.

  • A 2019 California law: Change the standard for when an officer can legally use deadly force, from one based on a “reasonable belief” of imminent danger to one in which a later review finds it “necessary.”

  • Jennifer Cobbina, Michigan State University: Implicit-bias training for officers and “frank engagement between law enforcement and the people they serve to address tensions, grievances and misconceptions.”

  • David French, National Review: Acknowledge that “many controversial police shootings are lawful and justifiable” but also stop accepting excuses and cover-ups for those that are not.

  • Chuck Wexler, Police Executive Research Forum: Train officers to intervene when a colleague “may be on the brink of using excessive force,” as Los Angeles and New Orleans are doing.

An emergency program created by Congress to replace school meals during the coronavirus outbreak has reached only about 15 percent of eligible children, according to an analysis by The Times. One problem: Outdated state computers.

Other virus developments:

Two NASA astronauts are set to blast off to the International Space Station today. But it will be different from past launches: This will be the first one run by a private company — SpaceX, founded by the entrepreneur Elon Musk. Kenneth Chang, a science reporter, offers some perspective:

Back in 1968, Pan Am started issuing memberships for its “First Moon Flights” club to space enthusiasts hoping to someday book a commercial flight there. It was a fanciful promotion — the membership card was free — but more than 93,000 people signed up. Pan Am is long out of business, and we’re still a long way before someone can buy a ticket to the moon, but the SpaceX launch is the first real step toward that dream.

Although NASA has been involved in working with SpaceX, this is SpaceX’s operation. In the future, NASA will simply pay the going rate for a ticket to the space station and not be involved with running its own space transportation system to low-Earth orbit.

More: The launch, scheduled for 4:33 p.m. Eastern time, will be streaming live on NASA’s website starting at noon.

Pepperoni rolls, cold noodles, New England seafood chowder — there are some meals that just taste better coming from a favorite restaurant.

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