Berkeley Talks: Franklin Zimring on the tragedy of U.S. police killings

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franklin zimring speaking at a podium and a cover of his book, When Police Kill

Berkeley Law professor Franklin Zimring gave a lecture, “Police Killings: An American Tragedy,” as part of the 2021 Martin Meyerson Berkeley Faculty Research Lectures. (Berkeley Law photo)

In this episode of Berkeley Talks, Berkeley Law professor Franklin Zimring, author of the 2017 book When Police Kill, discusses why police kill far more citizens in the United States than in other developed countries.

“About 1,000 times a year in the United States, civilians are shot and killed by local police, and the authorities say that such killings were either necessary or at least justified,” began Zimring. “… That’s three killings a day, every day. And that’s too many violent deaths in a country which already suffers from an excess of violent death.”

Zimring’s March 29 lecture, “Police Killings: An American Tragedy,” was part of the 2021 Martin Meyerson Berkeley Faculty Research Lecture series.

Zimring continued: “Most of these deaths are not necessary to preserve the life of the police officer or any innocent civilian. If the police didn’t shoot, there would probably be no loss of life as a result. So, in that sense, the majority of these police shootings do not contribute very much directly to public safety and should be avoided when they can be avoided.”

The Martin Meyerson Berkeley Faculty Research Lecture series has been running for 108 years, and has been cancelled only once — in 1919, during the flu pandemic. “If only they’d had access to Zoom, the string might have been unbroken,” said Chancellor Carol Christ, who introduced Zimring, calling him a “brilliant, preeminent pioneer in the fields of crime, criminal justice and family law.”

On April 27, K. Birgitta Whaley, a professor of chemical physics and director of the Berkeley Quantum Information and Computation Center, will give the second and final lecture in the series, “Can We See Quantum Mechanics at Work Around Us?”

Learn more about the Martin Meyerson Berkeley Faculty Research Lectures.

Read a story about Zimring’s lecture on the Berkeley Law website.

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