As Anguish Mounts Over Shootings, the Disparity Debate Looms as Backdrop

Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, NAACP, Urban League speak at the Colorado State Capitol building about the recent shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas.

Maya Rodriguez, KUSA

Representatives of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, NAACP and Urban League speak at the Colorado State Capitol building about the recent shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas.

Denver Police shot 10 individuals during 2015, including four who were fatally wounded, according to numbers compiled in an annual report by the Office of the Independent Monitor, a city watchdog.

Three of those shot were black males, or 30 percent of the total, while two Hispanic males and a Hispanic female were shot, also comprising 30 percent, and three white males were shot, another 30 percent.

Blacks make up about 10 percent of Denver’s population, while Hispanics are about 31 percent and whites about 52 percent.

In 2014, there were six Denver Police involved shooting incidents with seven civilians being shot, including four fatalities, according to the monitor’s report for that year. Five of those shot were Hispanic males, and two were males whose race/gender was listed as unknown.

The numbers update those provided in a report by Rocky Mountain PBS News in 2014, which examined the 33 cases of officer involved shootings during the years 2009-2013. That analysis concluded that a black Denver resident is three times more likely than a white resident to be shot by law enforcement, and that Latino residents are nearly twice as likely to be shot.

Since the August 2014 shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.,  intense national debate has focused on inequities in the nation’s criminal justice system. The turmoil reached a crescendo last week with police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, followed by unprecedented violence and tragedy in Dallas where a lone sniper killed five police officers and wounded seven others.

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush are among those scheduled to speak at an interfaith memorial service in Dallas today (July 12) for the slain officers, as well as meet with their families.

In 2015, The Washington Post launched a real-time database to track fatal police shootings, and the project continues this year. As of Sunday, July 10, 1,502 people were shot and killed by on-duty police officers since Jan. 1, 2015. Of them, 732 were white, and 381 were black (and 382 were of another or unknown race).

White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers, according to The Post. African Americans account for 24 percent of those killed by the police, but for only 13 percent of the U.S. population.

The newspaper said the numbers mean that black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.

A separate Rocky Mountain PBS News report, Race in Colorado: Justice, published and aired in May, found that blacks and Latinos are over-represented at every step in Colorado’s criminal process compared to their numbers in the general population.

Black and Latino Coloradans are disproportionately incarcerated, shot by police, arrested and detained as youth, arrested for marijuana, sent back to prison from parole, and disadvantaged by a criminal record, the examination of state data, records and reports showed.

In 2014, black adults were six times more likely than white adults to be in jail or prison in the state, and Latino adults were nearly one-and-a-half times more likely, according to the analysis.

Faith-based leaders from the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance joined members of the Denver Chapter of the NAACP on the steps of the Capitol Friday to call for change in police-community relations.

“Violence is never the answer,” said Rev. James Peters, Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, according to 9News. “If we’re going to solve the problems in America, we have to be able to talk to each other and accept the fact that all lives do matter.”

Learn more about Rocky Mountain PBS’ Race in Colorado initiative and watch the Race in Colorado: Justice documentary “A Sentenced Life” below:

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