An African American is four times more likely to be killed by police than a white American.
And of those who are killed, African Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police, according to a recent report in The Guardian.
Awareness has been raised about the issue because of several high-profile cases, including the deaths of Michael Brown, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner. The series of cases has focused attention on the sometimes poor relationship between African Americans and police.
In the most recent case, Bland was pulled over by a white officer for failing to use her turn signal while changing lanes. But after being pulled out of her car, forced to the ground and threatened with a taser, she ended up being arrested and charged for assaulting a police officer. While police said she committed suicide in their custody, her friends and family have questioned that finding.
“How could someone go from a place of being excited about the future to now wanting to take their own life?” Theresa Dear, a minister who knew Bland her whole life, told CNN.
Skepticism about Bland is fueled by other incidents, such as the shooting death of Brown in Baltimore. Brown’s death prompted widespread community protests. Some leaders in Connecticut say the frustrations in the black community are understandable.
“The black community is reacting this way because they don’t have a voice. In consideration of police brutality and what has been occurring recently, this is a reflection of ignorance, perception and racism — which still very much exists,” said Briggitte Pilar Brown, a police commissioner in New Britain.
To slow down the rate of black people being assaulted by police, the Rev. Rha-Sheen Brown, bishop of Right Now Ministries in New Britain, tells African Americans not to provoke officers.
“A cop is a cop. A person of authority,” Rha-Sheen Brown said. “You should respect authority of all levels,” he said.
Commissioner Brown said that police officers in New Britain are trying to maintain good relations with residents by remaining responsive and participating in the many local church events.
“Our police chief is very open and engaged,” she said. “Our police department interacts so positively with our community. It’s beautiful. There is no negative energy.”
Tireice Schand is a student at the Journalism & Media Academy, Hartford.