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Shootings Involving LA Police Nearly Doubled This Year

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 11/11/2015 Nico Pitney

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shootings involving Los Angeles Police Department officers have doubled this year, a statistic that the new head of the agency's civilian oversight board said Tuesday was alarming.

So far this year, there have been 45 officer-involved shootings in Los Angeles, compared to 23 through the same time period last year, said Matthew Johnson, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Nineteen of this year's shootings have been fatal, compared to 18 last year and 14 the year before. In 2012, there were 17 fatal officer-involved shootings, and 26 in 2011.

Johnson's comments come as a report by KPCC found that officers in departments throughout sprawling Los Angeles County, including the LAPD, shot at least 375 people, 187 fatally, between 2010 and 2014.

Of the 148 people shot after they dropped their hands out of sight or "reached for" their waistbands, 47 turned out to be unarmed, according to the report, based on district attorney records, other public documents and interviews.

In all, 97 unarmed people were shot. Black people were shot at triple the rate of whites and Latinos.

Of 279 people shot because police said they had ignored their commands, 120 showed signs of mental illness or impairment from drugs or alcohol, the report said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell told KPCC that while troubling, his agency's shootings involving unarmed people were unavoidable.

"You have to do what you have to do to be able to protect your own life and the lives of others," McDonnell said.

Prosecutors agree.

"We understand the public's anger over what they perceive to be unjustified shootings and killings," Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. "But we are looking very, very carefully at these cases.

"We're pretty confident if you look at the reasons that we have and the law, that you will find that we made the right call in every case," she said.

Of the 45 officer-involved shootings by the Los Angeles Police Department this year, 25 percent involved black subjects, though the city's black population is 9 percent, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told the police commission Tuesday.

He also said it was important to note that black people make up 42 percent of violent crime offenders as reported by victims, and account for 33 percent of the department's violent crime arrests.

Johnson said his plan to lower the number of officer-involved shootings in the city will include increasing relationship-based policing and wider use of Taser stun guns and beanbag shotguns. He also is proposing an analysis of the department's use of force over the past decade and how that compares to large agencies across the country, among other ideas that Beck said he supports.

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