Friday, March 27, 2015

High Number of Philadelphia Police Shootings "Part of a Larger Pattern”


 
March 27, 2015 - Dan Heyman, Public News Service (PA)
PHOTO: A Department of Justice report that found a shooting a week by Philadelphia police shows problems that are part of a bigger picture, according to groups working to change law enforcement in the city. Photo courtesy of the ACLU of PA.
PHOTO: A Department of Justice report that found a shooting a week by Philadelphia police shows problems that are part of a bigger picture, according to groups working to change law enforcement in the city. Photo courtesy of the ACLU of PA.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A Justice Department report that found a high number of shootings by Philadelphia police confirms what critics have been saying, the American Civil Liberties Union says.

According to the DOJ, Philadelphia police shot about one person a week for the past eight years - a much higher number than in New York City, which has a far larger population. Four out of five of those shot were African-American, the report said.

Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said this fits what the ACLU and others working to change policing in the city have found.

"The same issues that we have identified come out in this report," she said, "a lack of training, a lack of accountability and racial disparities."

The Philadelphia Police Department requested the Department of Justice study and said it is attempting to address the issues.

Roper said the shootings happened in spite of a falling crime rate and fewer assaults on police. One of the disturbing patterns shown in the report, she said, is the number of cases when the police shot people who offered no potential threat.

"The report spends a lot of time talking about the shooting of unarmed suspects," she said, "and that obviously is the most concerning part of it."

Roper said the solutions for the high number of shootings are similar to what is being recommended for other issues. She said the department needs more transparency, much better accountability and - most of all - better training to emphasize de-escalation and non-lethal force.

"Police officers who are simply not given adequate training in de-escalation and alternatives to shooting people," she said. "There are ways to conduct law enforcement without hurting people."

The full report is online at scribd.com.

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