Community closely watches Ferguson police shooting

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As new information continues to come out about the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, people in Jacksonville are asking themselves if the same kind of thing could happen here.

A sociologist at the University of North Florida says it certainly could, and the civil unrest in the aftermath of the Ferguson shooting is just a small part of a national crisis.

An average of 400 people are killed by police officers annually in the United States, with 96 of those killed black men, according to reports to the FBI.

While academic say the statistics are far from complete, the FBI numbers indicate a while police officer has shot a black man an average of twice a week in America since 2005.

Many of those shootings were ultimately ruled justifiable homicides, but the fallout from the shootings stresses race relations.

"We are seeing the same pattern over and over," said Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder of UNF. "There is something that is happening that is very wrong, that is leading to the untimely death of too many African males, and we need to pay closer to that."

Wilder says the Browns case has uncovered problems the Ferguson community has had for a long time, and also reveals what she calls a deep-seeded stereotype, surrounding young African-American men.

"The images of black men have historically been overwhelmingly negative, even though we have a black man as president," Wilder said. "So when you've got those deep-seeded historical connotations, then you're going to have these deep-seeded stereotypes that take place that we're going to have a hard time unraveling."

Even though the facts in Brown's fatal shooting remain unclear, the national statistics paint what Wilder calls a troubling picture.

Among the black males shot by police, 54 percent were under the age of 20, and another 43 percent were 21-29.  According to News4Jax records, two unarmed black men have been shot in Jacksonville since 2008.

"The younger people commit more of the crimes these days, and it's tricky because the young people are so unpredictable," said News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith. "To say 50 percent (are) under the age of 20 that sounds accurate."

Smith said there's no one easy answer as to why blacks are shot and killed by police at a higher rate than any race. He does think officers with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office are watching and learning what to do and not to do.

"When it's all said and done, I know JSO will use these incidents for training about what was wrong and what went right in this investigation, and we don't know because it's still under investigation," Smith said.

The racial analysis of police-involved shootings is also something that has come under criticism because the records are far from complete. Out of more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., only 750 police agencies contribute to the FBI database.

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