A review of thousands of documents found officers with ‘troubled pasts’ are hired and rarely face prison time over the deaths.
An investigation by US broadcaster National Public Radio published on Monday found that 135 unarmed Black people have been killed by police since 2015, often by police with red flags on their record.
NPR looked at “thousands of pages” of police records in its reviews of the deaths and found that 75 percent of the officers are white. Nineteen officers involved in the shootings had little time on the force. One had been an active police officer for four hours before the shooting.
The report also found officers who had “troubled pasts” of domestic violence and drug abuse, repeated citizens complaints and use of force incidents, officers convicted of crimes and others who violated departmental policies.
One officer, Zechariah Presley, who is white, performed poorly during interviews with the St Marys Police Department in 2016, who did not offer him a job.
Presley travelled about 13 kilometres (eight miles) to a nearby town and applied for a position in the Kingsland Police Department.
He was found to have 10 red flags by hiring authorities, the report notes, including admitting to being involved with domestic violence, assault and buying or selling drugs. Presley was still hired.
In 2018, Presley saw Anthony Green, a 33-year-old Black man, driving and knew he did not have a valid licence. Presley fired eight shots at Green after he fled on foot following a vehicle pursuit, NPR sad.
Green was hit at least five times and died.
BREAKING: Details on the arrest of Kingsland #Georgia Police Officer Zechariah Presley in the deadly shooting of local father Anthony Green following a traffic stop: https://t.co/WIk3NqPHGF pic.twitter.com/pN2aROW6ta
— Tenikka Smith Hughes (@TenikkaANjax) June 27, 2018
Police killings are often costly for the force. The family of George Floyd, the man whose death in police custody sparked nationwide protests and a continuing national discussion, sued the city of Minneapolis in July for an undisclosed amount. That lawsuit is continuing.
The city of Louisville agreed to pay the family of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who died after police fired on her home during a raid in March 2020, $12m in September, after the parties reached a settlement.
Presley was fired and charged with voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and fired. A jury found him not guilty of manslaughter but guilty of violating the oath of office.
A judge sentenced Presley to a year in prison, four years of probation and a $1,000 fine.
NPR found that of the 135 deaths, 30 judgements and settlements awarded over $142m. Many more are pending.
Charges are rare. In more than 80 cases, no charges were brought against officers. However, 33 of the killings saw officers resign or be fired, the report found.
Only 13 officers involved in the deaths were charged with murder over the last five years. Two have been convicted, with seven cases pending. There were seven charged with manslaughter and two were found guilty.