Yesterday, the new president of the Los Angeles Police Commission announced an "alarming" rise in shootings by LAPD officers this year—from 23 last year to 45 this year, 34 of which injured or killed people—and acknowledged the obvious: "The LAPD, like police departments across our country, is facing a crisis of confidence with minority communities, particularly African Americans." A tide of cell phone videos in the past year has made it impossible to ignore that American police are frighteningly quick to shoot people, even people who are unarmed or seeking their help or mentally ill (like Ezell Ford, a black man shot to death close-range in the back by an LAPD officer in South LA last year). President Matt Johnson's admission is important, since departments rarely release information on officer shootings, but it's still only a very small part of the story. KPCC has revealed much more though in a new project called "Officer Involved" that accounts for the details of every shooting since 2010 by a Los Angeles County police officer (not just the LAPD, but local departments and the Sheriff's Department too). The numbers confirm that crisis of confidence.
Since police departments don't release this information, KPCC's reporting comes from district attorney summaries of shootings, medical examiner records, "as well as other public records and interviews." They found that "at least" 375 people were shot by on-duty police officers in LA County between the start of 2010 and the end of 2014.
One in four of those people—97 total—was completely unarmed, no weapon at all. The LA County Sheriff's Department is even higher—their deputies fired on unarmed people a third of the time. (By comparison, NYPD officers shot unarmed people "less than 20 percent" of the time over the same four years.) About 178 people shot by LA police in this period had a gun, but only 57 actually fired at police.
A quarter of the shootings started "when cops stopped someone on the street for a traffic violation or simply to question them as part of aggressive policing." Of the 279 people shot for ignoring officer commands, 120 appeared to be mentally ill or intoxicated. Officers shot 41 mentally ill people total in the four-year period; in at least 17 of those cases, "prosecutors said police were summoned because the person was suicidal or in danger of self-harm."
In 320 of the total 375 shootings, "officers did not try less lethal weapons before using deadly force."
There is no DA information on the race of the people police shoot at, but there is medical examiner data on the race of the people police shoot and kill. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of all people killed by LA County police officers between 2010 and 2014 were black; black people make up 8 percent of LA County's population. 48 percent of people killed by police are Latino, which is about proportionate to the total population. White people are 27 percent of the LA population, and 23 percent of the fatal shootings.
None of the shootings analyzed by KPCC resulted in the prosecution of a police officer. Ronald Orosco, who shot an unarmed black man he'd pulled over for a traffic stop, was the last LA police officer charged for shooting a civilian while on duty. That was in September 2000.