Shootings involving Los Angeles Police Department officers have nearly doubled this year, a statistic that the new head of the agency's civilian oversight board said was alarming.
So far this year, there have been 45 officer-involved shootings in Los Angeles, compared with 23 through the same period last year, Matthew Johnson, the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, said Tuesday.
Nineteen of this year's shootings have been fatal, compared with 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, a Southern California public radio station, found that officers in departments throughout sprawling Los Angeles County, including the LAPD, shot at least 375 people, 187 fatally, from 2010 to 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 three times the rate for whites and Latinos.
Of 279 people shot because police said they ignored 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," he said.
"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."
Of the 45 officer-involved shootings by the LAPD 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 stun guns and beanbag shotguns. He is proposing an analysis of the department's use of force over the past decade and how that compares with other large agencies across the country, among other ideas that Beck said he supports.
The Associated Press