Across the nation, protesters are no longer satisfied with indictments or special prosecutors when someone dies unnecessarily at the hands of police. Instead, they have been seeking and increasingly securing the ouster of top officials, as well as concrete steps toward real reform and accountability, reports the Washington Post. “In my lifetime, I haven't experienced a moment like this,” said University of Chicago law Prof. Craig Futterman, who founded the school's Civil Rights and Police Accountability Clinic. “I'm usually more of a cynic and a skeptic, but this feels different.” Activists and criminal-justice experts say the national ethos on race and policing has changed dramatically since a black teenager was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. So far this year, police have shot and killed more than 920 people.
Sustained protests in many cities, an aggressive social media campaign and a steady drip of viral videos showing questionable police shootings have eroded the societal reflex to defend police and blame the dead victim. The videos have soured the public's opinion of law enforcement. In June, a Gallup poll found that about half of Americans expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in police, a 22-year low. Another poll found the percentage of black Americans who see race as the most urgent U.S. problem rose from 3 at the beginning of 2014 to 15 after Ferguson. Law enforcement officials are reexamining the way police do business. A presidential task force and the Police Executive Research Forum have urged police officials to rethink training so officers can avoid the use of deadly force. Campaign Zero, a branch of Black Lives Matter, released a review of police union contracts this month, highlighting problematic clauses. In many cities, officers can refuse to talk to investigators for 48 hours after a shooting and to strike embarrassing information from their personnel files.