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Florida Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action Statement on New Footage from Police Shooting of Salaythis Melvin

August 19, 2020

The Florida chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots networks, released the following statements today in response to new footage released of the police shooting of Salaythis Melvin on August 7. The autopsy indicated that the deputy shot Melvin in the back, killing him.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that “[t]he only body camera footage that shows the seconds before Melvin was shot came from a deputy driving toward Melvin, still about 50 yards away from him, captured through his front window.” No footage was released from the deputy who shot and killed Melvin, who according to police reports was armed. 

“Salaythis Melvin should still be alive today,” said Gaby Padron Loewenstein, a volunteer with Florida Moms Demand Action. “Our hearts are with his friends and family, and we join with them in calling for a thorough, transparent investigation.”

“Body-worn cameras can save lives and improve transparency and accountability in our police departments, and every police officer in Florida should wear one,” said Juliana Simone, a volunteer with Coral Gables Students Demand Action. “We’ll honor Salaythis by fighting for meaningful reforms in our institutions to root out white supremacy and racism wherever we see them.” 

According to an ACLU report released today, Florida is one of seven states with “substantially more fatal [police] shootings in the first six months of 2020 compared to past years.” 

A growing collection of research largely demonstrates that body-worn cameras are effective in strengthening community perceptions of the police and reducing use-of-force incidents and complaints – especially if there is clear policy stating when cameras must be turned on. 

Meaningful use of force policies encourage de-escalation, utilize early intervention systems, and ensure that officers who act in a manner that is criminally negligent can be held accountable. Use of force policies can ensure that laws help advance safety and promote trust in the police. 

Research suggests that implementing specific use-of-force policies can save lives. One 2016 study of 91 large police departments found adoption of use-of-force reform policies—exhaustion of other means prior to shooting, bans on chokeholds and strangleholds, use-of-force continuum, de-escalation, duty to intervene, restrictions on shootings at moving vehicles, and warning before shooting—was associated with fewer people killed by police. 

Black people in the United States are far more likely to be shot and killed by law enforcement than their white counterparts, and data from Mapping Police Violence shows that most people killed by police are killed with guns. Black Americans are shot and killed by police at three times the rate of white Americans.

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