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US: How Abusive, Biased Policing Destroys Lives

Initial Reforms are a Start, But Fundamental Change Needed

Thursday 12 September 2019


(Tulsa, Oklahoma, September 12, 2019) – Abusive policing in Tulsa, Oklahoma that targets black people and poor people, diminishes the quality of life in all communities, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch released the report on the eve of the third anniversary of the killing of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man. That killing led Human Rights Watch to investigate everyday police interactions in Tulsa as a window into the larger human rights problems with policing throughout the United States.

The 216-page report, “‘Get on the Ground!’: Policing, Poverty, and Racial Inequality in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” details how policing affects Tulsa, particularly in the segregated and largely impoverished North Tulsa area. Human Rights Watch found that black people are subjected to physical force, including tasers, police dog bites, pepper spray, punches, and kicks, at a rate 2.7 times that of white people. Some neighborhoods with larger populations of black people and poor people experienced police stops more than 10 times the rate of predominantly white and wealthier neighborhoods. Arrests and citations lead to staggering accumulations of court fees, fines, and costs, often for very minor offenses, that trap poor people in a cycle of debt and further arrests for failing to pay.

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