Last year, 52 officers from the New York Police Department fired a total of 236 bullets during confrontations with suspects. About half of the officers used a two-handed grip on their firearm, as the department encourages, while the others shot one-handed. And in a sign of just how tense these 33 separate shooting episodes were, and how rapidly they unfolded, only one officer reported using the gun’s sight before firing.
Among its findings, the report found that a greater percentage of shootings happen from a distance of 6 to 10 feet than from 1 to 5 feet. The report also notes that one officer fired from a distance of more than 50 feet and missed.
Still, the most significant lesson to be gleaned from the report is perhaps just how rare shootings have become.
The 33 instances in which an officer intentionally shot at a suspect last year represented a 30 percent decrease from the year before. But it reflected a far greater drop since the department began keeping these records in 1971, a year in which the police in New York City fatally shot 93 people and injured 221 others.
Last year, the police shot and killed 8 people and injured 16.
The Police Department said the 2010 statistics marked record lows.
Some specific vignettes:
The report briefly describes some of the shootings. In one case, four officers fired 46 times on two men at a Harlem block party; one man died, while the other lived after being struck by 23 bullets. In another case, an officer shot the leg of a 69-year-old man armed with a knife who had been released from prison a day earlier and had just tried to rob a bank.
Slightly more than half of the shootings occurred when officers were summoned by a 911 call. The next largest number — about 15 percent — happened after the police stopped someone on the street for questioning.
In two-thirds of the shootings, the police fired only when confronted by suspects carrying guns. In nine episodes, the suspects fired at the police. In two cases, the police believed that the suspects were drawing a firearm, although the report does not indicate whether they were actually armed.
In eight other cases, the suspects attacked or menaced officers with knives or blades. Most of the knife-wielders were people whom the police considered emotionally disturbed, and in several cases the police used pepper spray on them before firing.
Not even man’s best friend is saved:
The report also considers 29 instances in which officers fired on dogs, and in one case, a raccoon.