The Pennsylvania chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots networks, released the following statement after Walter Wallace was shot and killed by police in West Philadelphia after brandishing a knife at police officers. In a video that has circulated on social media, a woman — who has been identified as Walter Wallace’s mother — can be seen trying to intervene before police fire at her son.
“We’re grieving for Walter Wallace’s family and another community that has been shaken by a police shooting,” said Aleida Garcia, a 2020 Everytown Survivor Fellow based in Philadelphia whose son, Alejandro Rojas Garcia, was shot and killed on January 24, 2015. “Walter Wallace should still be alive today. This is another reminder that we need to do more to prevent police shootings—including strengthening use of force policies.”
Meaningful use of force policies encourage de-escalation, utilize early intervention systems, and ensure that officers who act in a manner that is criminally negligent can be held accountable. Use of force policies can ensure that laws help advance safety and promote trust in the police.
Research suggests that implementing specific use-of-force policies can save lives. One 2016 study of 91 large police departments found adoption of use-of-force reform policies—exhaustion of other means prior to shooting, bans on chokeholds and strangleholds, use-of-force continuum, de-escalation, duty to intervene, restrictions on shootings at moving vehicles, and warning before shooting—was associated with fewer people killed by police.
As previously noted by Everytown, gun violence is a uniquely American epidemic, and gun violence by police is, too. Every year, police in America shoot and kill more than 1,000 people. Agencies should limit confrontations that can lead to excessive force, enhance de-escalation training, and expand alternative dispatch tools that include non-law enforcement personnel best positioned to help people in crisis connect with the social services they need.
According to Mapping Police Violence, 168 people were killed by police in Pennsylvania between 2013 and 2019. Black people are five times as likely to be killed by police as white people in Pennsylvania.