Study Finds Black People Policed More Harshly for COVID-19 Violations

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While the Black community is disproportionally being affected by COVID-19, they are also being punished by police at higher rates for so-called violations to COVID orders.

According to data by the COVID-19 Policing Project, across the United States, emergency “shelter in place,” “stay at home,” “social distancing,” and quarantine orders created to curb COVID-19 outbreaks are being enforced through aggressive policing, steep fines, criminal charges, and harsh penalties. Data reveals that Black, Indigenous, and people of color are 2.5 times more likely to be policed and punished for COVID-19 violation orders than white people.

“This kind of aggressive policing only exacerbates the effects of the pandemic,” said authors Timothy Colman, Pascal Emmer, Andrea Ritchie, and Tiffany Wang in a recent opinion editorial in The Guardian. “Fines ranging from $500 to $10,000 hit communities already reeling from record unemployment, a looming eviction crisis, and soaring food bank use with yet another financial burden when many cannot afford basic necessities. Arrests place people in high-risk jail and prison environments, raising rates of COVID-19 transmission, infection, and mortality among incarcerated populations.”

A recently released study titled, “Unmasked: Impacts of Pandemic Policing,” shows that Black people are more than four times more likely to be policed and punished for coronavirus orders than white people. Worse, Black women are targeted even more—five times the rate of white women, while Black men are more than three times likely to be policed and punished for violations than white men.

“The impact of this project has been unprecedented in terms of helping us understand and situate our work in NYC in the evolving and explosive national context. In early 2020, none of us expected to be dealing with a global health pandemic or the concurrent pandemics of white supremacy, police violence, and economic devastation that COVID-19 exacerbated. This project gave the movement an immeasurable gift through their vision, foresight, coordination, and love for our peoples—helping us identify trends, best practices, and lines to hold. We’re thankful beyond words,” the authors said.