NYPD: Officers fired guns less in 2007

September 10, 2008 5:04:19 PM PDT
As the city's crime rate continues to drop, police officers are using their weapons less, and last year they fired the fewest times since the police department began recording the statistic three decades ago. According to a report released Wednesday, in 2007 there were 111 incidents in which firearms were discharged, including shots fired at animals, in suicide attempts, in accidents and at crime suspects. The figure was down from 127 in 2006 and 253 a decade ago.

There were 45 cases in which officers intentionally fired at crime suspects, down 25 percent from the year before. The majority of the 80 officers involved fired to defend themselves or others from the threat of injury or death, the police report said.

Still, seven officers were injured last year, and three were killed, including two volunteer officers who were unarmed.

"The report shows continued restraint by police officers," New York Police Department chief spokesman Paul Browne said.

Fifty-three suspects were involved in the 45 shooting incidents; 19 were shot and injured, and 10 were killed. Of those injured or killed, the majority were shot because they fired at an officer or bystander, the report said. Most of the shootings occurred in the Bronx or north Brooklyn in areas with high levels of gun violence.

The report also included data on the races of the officers and suspects involved in the shootings, information that had not been available for about a decade.

The data were sought by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed a Freedom of Information Law request and lawsuit to obtain it.

"The NYCLU has been asking the NYPD to reveal the data on the role of race in police shootings for nearly a year," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. "This report appears to be a step in the right direction in terms of disclosure."

The race data show that half the officers who fired at suspects were white, 31 percent Hispanic, 15 percent black and 4 percent Asian. Of the suspects shot, 61 percent were black, 33 percent Hispanic and 4 percent white.

The last time the data were available, in 1997, they showed 89.4 percent of those shot by police were black or Hispanic.

Browne said the shootings comport with the crime demographics in the city.

There were 39 incidents in which officers fired at dogs last year, up 30 percent from 2006 but still down from a decade ago. There were 17 dogs killed and 12 injured, mostly pit bulls.

Overall, the firearms report shows the 36,000-officer police department's use of deadly force has decreased with a historic drop in crime and a drop against threats to officers. Crime is down 3 percent so far this year from last year and is down 73 percent from about a decade ago.

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