New York Police Department officers were involved in more shooting incidents — resulting in more suspect deaths — in 2012 compared to the previous year, according to an annual firearms report released on Tuesday.
Officers with the nation’s largest police department intentionally fired their guns in 45 confrontations last year, up from 36 in 2011. In those, police killed 16 suspects compared to nine the year before — the highest number since 19 were killed in 1998.
Among those killed was Ramarley Graham, an unarmed 18-year-old whose shooting by a narcotics officer inside his Bronx home sparked community protest. A judge tossed out criminal charges against the officer after ruling that a prosecutor from the DA’s office wrongly instructed the grand jury to disregard other cops having told Haste that Graham was armed. Joseph Anthony, a Bronx PBA trustee, said, “Based on information given by other police officers, Officer Haste felt his life was in danger. If that evidence would have been presented properly to the grand jury, he never would have been indicted in the first place.”
Police officials said Tuesday that the tally for fatal shootings is down this year: There have been seven fatal suspect shootings so far in 2013, whereas all 16 of 2012’s shootings had happened by this time last year. This year’s total includes the shooting in Brooklyn on Monday of a man who police say lunged at an officer with a knife.
The yearly firearms report is considered a barometer of gun violence in a city where outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made taking illegal guns off the street a crusade. Police officials insist that even with the rise in police shooting incidents, the number remains small given the size of the threat and indicates that most officers show restraint when deciding whether to use deadly force.
In 2012, the NYPD responded to 246,621 reports of people using or displaying weapons of all kinds, according to the report. There were 26,019 weapons arrests, including 5,689 involving guns.
“In other words, there were more than 26,000 incidents in which an officer took an armed suspect into custody without firing his or her weapon,” the report says.
Armed suspects shot 13 officers in 2012, none fatally, compared to only four in 2011, the report says.