WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Since January 2015, US police has killed more than 1,100 people, according to the Killed by Police monitoring website. The high number of incidents has prompted public outcry and urged the US government to introduce new policies and investigate police departments’ practices throughout the country.
In March, President Barack Obama said racism, tensions between police and minority communities as well as violence regrettably are a reality in the United States.
In August, thousands of people gathered on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri to observe the one-year anniversary of African-American teenager Michael Brown being fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson a year earlier.
"The recent acts of violence will not be tolerated in a community that has worked so tirelessly over the last year to rebuild and become stronger," St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said.
In September, the US Department of Justice revealed the results of its investigation of Ferguson police’s response to the previous wave of protests in August 2014. The officials found that the use of military weapons, K-9 dog units and tear gas during the events was inappropriate.
Following the report, presidential candidate Ted Cruz argued, however, that senior officials, including US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, have systematically assaulted police officers in cities such as Ferguson and Baltimore to the detriment of overall security.
"We are seeing a manifestation of the rhetoric and vilification of law enforcement that is coming from the top — all the way to the President of the United States and senior administration officials," Cruz charged.
Another wave of riots erupted in Baltimore, Maryland in April, after the burial of 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray who died of spinal cord injuries that he sustained while in police custody. Rioters throw bricks at police, injuring 20 officers, destroyed 144 cars, 15 buildings and looted stores.
In May, State’s Attorney for Baltimore City Marilyn Mosby announced the filing of criminal charges against six Baltimore police officers involved in the illegal arrest of Gray. The officers were suspended from police duties and taken into custody.
"It is absolutely vital that the truth comes out on what happened to Freddie Gray," Obama said. "What I think the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth. That's what people around the country expect."
In addition, the Justice Department agreed to launch an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department to determine whether its officers engaged in discriminatory practices.
The trial in the six police officers case is still ongoing.
In October, media revealed that 7,000 Chicago citizens had been held at the secret Homan Square interrogation facility against their will by Chicago Police Department officers.
"The operation of the facility appears to fly in the face of all basic standards guaranteeing a citizen’s right to an attorney, basic standards regarding your right to have access to phone calls and visits, and it appears to be run in the same manner as a South American military operation," advocacy group PoliceAbuse.com Executive Director Diop Kamau told Sputnik.
Later in October, former detainees at Chicago’s police black site at Homan Square sued the city, seeking financial restitution for the torture they suffered at the hands of police.
On December 10, the Justice Department announced it will launch an investigation into the Chicago Police Department’s practices and its use of force. The announcement was followed by protests in the city and calls for the Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign.
Steps Taken to Address Police Brutality
In December 2014, Obama issued an executive order to establish a Task Force on 21st Century Policing after noting that a simmering distrust "exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color."
In March, the Task Force proposed 59 recommendations to the White House to improve policing. The recommendations included independent investigations of police shootings, greater diversity in police forces reflective of the communities they serve, increased civilian oversight over police and community-policing initiatives.
Later in March, the Justice Department completed an investigative report into the Ferguson law enforcement practices, which revealed many instances of excessive force directed in almost 90 percent of the cases against African Americans.
Following the report, the civil rights group Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights urged nationwide investigations into police departments across the United States.
"After a similar investigation found deep-seated bias in the operations of Cleveland’s police department late last year, it’s clear that these investigations are necessary nationwide to ensure that police are serving and protecting their communities, not victimizing them," the civil group said.
"Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability, and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve," US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.
In September, Lynch vowed to combat racial discrimination and prejudice in local police forces and uphold the rights of convicted felons.
"[T]his is really about being treated unfairly because of race by those who are sworn to protect you, by those who wear the uniform of protection," she stated.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation said in December the agency would expand its accounting of fatal police shootings by tracking any incident in which an officer causes "serious injury or death to civilians."
For years, the police program of recording officer-involved deaths was voluntary, and statistics showed that a number of law enforcement agencies did not always submit accurate data or none at all.
Despite the government’s efforts to improve the situation, December was marked by new protests in Chicago concerning the police killing of African American teenager Laquan McDonald, as local government aldermen continue to hold hearings on the issue.