Gun violence by police continues to devastate Black people, who in Pennsylvania are over 5 times as likely as white people to be killed by police. This tragic reality was once again laid to bare in Philadelphia when police shot and killed Fanta Bility, an 8-year-old girl, outside a high school football stadium in late August.
Following the shooting, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer announced that a petition has been filed with the Delaware County president judge to impanel a grand jury to investigate evidence linking police to the shooting of Bility and consider criminal charges against the officers involved. Before the announcement, it was found through a ballistic analysis that there was “near certainty” that police officers fired the gunshots that killed Bility.
Bility’s death is part of a larger trend of police violence in Pennsylvania and across the country, which impacts Black people at disproportionately higher rates due to decades of systemic racism, lack of accountability for police misconduct, and the militarization of police in the United States.
Reforming our policing strategies is crucial to combating this racialized violence and increasing accountability for police misconduct, including reforms that address appropriate use-of-force standards, such as:
- A strong legal standard barring unnecessary police use of force and requiring officers to intervene and stop abuse. Law enforcement must be barred from using deadly force except when necessary to prevent death or serious bodily harm, and only after exhausting other means and every officer must be required to intervene when other officers use excessive force.
- A thorough and independent system for reviewing shootings and other use-of-force incidents, with a clear and consistent scale for discipline, and civilian involvement that allows for transparency and ease, both in the complaint process and the investigation and review processes. Misconduct should also be subject to review by external oversight boards with independent authority to investigate complaints and make findings. Additionally, officers should not be shielded by qualified immunity.
- Transparency about use of force, policies, and procedures. Agencies should be required to publish regular reports about officer uses-of-force and misconduct, including the race and other demographic information about any victims, and should not be able to shield those records from the public. Officers should be required to report shootings and other use-of-force incidents immediately, and agencies should report use-of-force data publicly. Officers in the field must also be required to use activated body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras.