The blog of the Urban Institute
July 7, 2016

What can we do to prevent the next killing?

July 8, 2016

The United States is in mourning after a series of shootings in the past week. Two black men—Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Lousiana, and Philando Castile of St. Paul, Minnesota—were killed at the hands of police, despite appearing to be of no immediate threat. Eleven law enforcement officers were shot, five of them murdered by gunmen in Dallas, Texas, near a protest of police brutality.

Two more names added to an already long list of people of color whose lives were cut short by a justice system that should have protected them: Diallo, Brown, Crawford, Gurley, Garner, Boyd, Rice, Scott, Gray, Bland, McDonald. And several more names were added to a growing list of law enforcement officers who sadly gave their lives in service to their communities: Ahrens, Krol, Smith, Thompson, and Zamarripa.* But all of these men and women are more than statistics or names on a list.

As researchers, commenting on these tragedies can be challenging. We have already identified numerous evidence-based policies and programs that can make communities safer and more enriching for young people of color, make policing more effective, and improve underresourced neighborhoods. While we continue to conduct new research and advocate for stronger, fairer, and more effective policy solutions grounded in best evidence, the events of the past week give us no new data—the stories are now tragically familiar. But each name added to the list of victims—both people of color subject to police brutality and police officers brutally killed in the line of duty—increases the urgency for thoughtful and impactful policy change to prevent another needless death and to support safe, healthy, and productive lives.

For context around racial inequalities, policing, and criminal justice, we refer to past research from the Urban Institute (below). As we mourn, we must commit ourselves to achieving a different future, one in which our criminal justice system is free from prejudice, our communities are safe, and violence against innocent people is eliminated. Research and evidence can help, but our hearts and humanity will take us there.

On effective policing:

On young people of color:

*This post was updated to include the names of the officers who lost their lives in the Dallas shooting on July 7.

Protesters block traffic trying to leave a prayer vigil for Alton Sterling at Living Faith Christian Center in Baton Rouge, La., Thursday, July 7, 2016. Sterling, 37, was shot and killed by Baton Rouge police outside a convenience store, where he was selling CDs. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards had attended the vigil but left before the protestors arrived. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


As an organization, the Urban Institute does not take positions on issues. Experts are independent and empowered to share their evidence-based views and recommendations shaped by research.