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Report: St. Louis Metro Has Highest Average Rate of Police Killings

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Between 2009 and 2019, 132 people were killed by police and 47 others died in police custody in the St. Louis area. (Wikimedia Commons)
Between 2009 and 2019, 132 people were killed by police and 47 others died in police custody in the St. Louis area. (Wikimedia Commons)
January 19, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Metro Police Department has the highest average rate of killings per population of any major police department in the nation, according to a new report from ArchCity Defenders, released on MLK Day.

Between 2009 and 2019, 179 people were killed by police or died in jail custody in the St. Louis area. Ninety-two percent of those killed were men, and 72% were Black.

The report also found media articles tended to protect the identities of police officers, while exposing those of the victim's family.

Emmanuel Powell, staff attorney for ArchCity Defenders, said these deaths take a vast toll on those family members.

"They often face a callous police department that refuses to provide information on their loved ones' death," Powell observed. "There's a lack of legal advocacy."

He added there are few attorneys willing to file civil-rights claims on behalf of families, and few prosecutors willing to investigate and bring charges.

He noted families have a range of issues around how to pay for funerals, and how to access social services and mental-health support.

Toni Taylor, the mother of Cary T. Ball, Jr., who was shot 21 times by police in 2013, said grief can cause different illnesses, and it's critical for survivors of police brutality to take care of themselves.

"So you can be able to stand up and fight another day for your loved one," Taylor explained. "Fighting for these last eight years for Cary has took a real big toll on my body. But this time, I'm going to step back a little bit and get my health in order."

Ashley Jackson, a doctoral student at Washington University in St. Louis who studies patterns of police and state violence, said a critical step to reduce police brutality is a federally mandated database which tracks each time the police harm an individual.

"I think a lot of people don't understand why communities of color mistrust the police; why, if we're in trouble, why calling 911 isn't really our first response, right?" Jackson stated. "It's because it's this intense fear and this historical persistence of racialized violence."

Jackson pointed out police brutality can be more than physical violence; it can be psychological abuse as well.

She emphasized it's key to understand how police violence permeates through a family, a community and even generations down the line.

Lily Bohlke, Public News Service - MO