New York Police Department sees fewest police involved shootings since 1971, the first year accurate records started being kept.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – January 19, 2011 The New York Police Department announced a record low number of fatal police-involved shootings last year, a new report shows. According to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly this was the lowest number since 1971, when the keeping of detailed shooting statistics began.
In 2010, eight people were killed by police officers and 16 were wounded. In 2009, law enforcement officers shot and killed 12 people and wounded 20 others. In sharp contrast, 93 individuals were killed by police and 221 were wounded in 1971.
The numbers are low even though there were approximately 4000 more officers (35,000 total) on the force in 2010 than in 1971. Plus, shooting has become easier. Prior to 1993, New York City police officers carried six-shot revolvers compared to today’s 16-shot semiautomatic pistols.
New York civil rights violation lawyer David Perecman attributed the decline possibly to changing attitudes and levels of accountability, not fewer encounters with suspects in New York City.
“There are more policies in place that govern the circumstances under which New York police officers can shoot and there is more training in how to shoot. There is also more accountability for every shot fired,” said Perecman, a New York civil rights violation lawyer. “The excessive use of force by police is less tolerated by the police department and by the public. Also the advent of cellular phones with video capability certainly creates the awareness by police that they may get filmed and later called to account.
“ Four decades ago, the NYPD started requiring that an in-depth report be filled out every time an officer fired his or her weapon during a hostile encounter. This would be followed by an exhaustive investigation by the department. This investigation, according to the 2009 Annual Firearms Discharge Report, this investigation includes witness and subject interviews, area searches, evidence collection, crime‐scene sketches, hospital visits, and firearms/ballistics analyses. As part of New York Police Department training, officers take part in computer simulations that teach them to make instant life-and-death decisions.
“A law enforcement officer’s right to use force is not without limit. According to federal law, state law and department regulations, police officers may only use as much force as is reasonably necessary. Anything more can become a case of police brutality in New York, or excessive use of force by police in New York,” civil rights violation lawyer Perecman said.
The year 2010 also marks a record low number of adversarial conflicts with assailants (34 in total), and firearm discharge incidents for any reason (93 in total), including accidental discharges and shooting of animals. There were 994 such incidents in 1972 – the highest amount since accurate records were kept. Last year was the first time firearms discharge incidents of all kinds fell below 100.
Police Commissioner Kelly credits police training and restraint for the record low number of shooting deaths.
NYPD policy emphasizes that “only the amount of force necessary to overcome resistance will be used,” and specifically specifies when officers can use deadly physical force. There is also a strong warning for officers that excessive use of force by police will not be tolerated.
“With fewer shootings, another benefit may well be improved relations between the New York Police Department and the communities in all boroughs of New York,” civil rightsviolation lawyer Perecman said.
On the Annual Firearms Discharge Report itself, it is written that the primary purpose of the document is to ensure that the New York Police Department’s training is the best it can be.