Gun violence by police continues to cause outsized harm to Black people, who are three times more likely to be shot by police than white people in the US. This tragic reality was once again made apparent in Philadelphia when police likely shot and killed Fanta Bility, an 8-year-old girl, outside a high school football stadium in late August of 2021.
In November, murder charges were filed against two men who initially opened fire outside the stadium, even though they did not fire the shots that killed Bility. Initially, the police officers who likely shot and killed Bility were not charged as the grand jury impaneled by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer continued to review the shooting. On Tuesday, however, the grand jury charged three police officers with manslaughter in the shooting of Fanta Bility. District Attorney Stollsteimer dropped the murder charges against the other two men.
Bility’s death is part of a larger trend of police violence in Pennsylvania and across the country impacting 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.