Police kill black people. Whether black people do, too, is irrelevant.

There are a number of important lessons to be drawn from Campaign Zero’s Year-End Police Violence Report, broken down here by the Huffington Post’s Julia Craven. But the most politically salient takeaway is that, in 2015, at least, “black-on-black crime” was the racist non-sequitur civil rights advocates have always held it to be. 

Campaign Zero

As part of its ongoing Mapping Police Violence project, Campaign Zero juxtaposed violent crime rates in 60 of the nation’s largest cities with the killing rates of their police departments and found no clear correlation, one way or the other. Bakersfield, which had the highest rate of police killings per-capita in the country, had among the lowest rates of violent crime. Meanwhile, Detroit, which had the highest violent crime rate of any city measured, also had the sixth lowest rate of police killings. 

Because the data on police killings has been so thin in the past, this is the first year a study of this nature would even have been possible. What it suggests, though, is that structural impunity drives police violence in America, not the inherent criminality of black people. As the study’s authors put it, “Rather than being determined by crime rates, police violence reflects a lack of accountability in the culture, policies, and practices of the institutions of policing.”