Police officers in Philadelphia shoot a resident every week on average but are not well-trained regarding their department’s policies on the use of such force and often are not subject to proper investigations after the shootings, a report published Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice said. The city’s police have killed 100 people in 394 shootings since 2007.
“Our assessment uncovered policy, training and operational deficiencies in addition to an undercurrent of significant strife between the community and department,” the authors state.
For example, officers are trained each year in the use of their firearms but those courses include little mention of the department’s policy on the use of deadly force, the Associated Press reported. In fact, a systematic briefing on those departmental policies has not occurred since 2010. Cops also receive very little training -- essentially no more than a video and a demonstration -- in the art of de-escalating conflicts so encounters do not end in a shooting.
Furthermore, the Philadelphia police department often fails to follow up on shootings with a proper investigation that looks at not just whether any rules were broken, but at the decision-making process and the officer's skills in handling conflict. Philadelphia police have shot 59 unarmed people since 2007, the report said.
While police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, were accused of taking inappropriate actions based on racism in a recent Justice Department report, investigators primarily blamed poor training policies and a lack of oversight for the shootings in Philadelphia while acknowledging such violence could also alienate the surrounding community.
Just last week, residents who attended a town hall meeting about the death of Brandon Tate-Brown, who was killed by police last year as he reached for a gun, proved disruptive to the point that 10 people left the meeting in handcuffs. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams decided Thursday not to charge the officers involved in Tate-Brown’s death.
Along with criticisms, the report’s authors handed over 91 recommendations to help the department reform its policies. Officers should carry weapons that deploy nonlethal force such as Tasers or pepper spray in addition to guns, they suggested, and a special committee of the department should investigate police shootings immediately after they take place, to supplement reviews conducted by the district attorney’s office.
"It's a good report with a lot of solid recommendations," Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told the Philadelphia Inquirer, noting several of the report’s suggestions already have been adopted.
Ramsey requested the Justice Department look into the issue of shootings after his police officers killed three people in four days in 2013, the Associated Press reported. Last year, four people died in the city after being shot by police officer, the fewest number in the eight years of data the Justice Department tracked.
It's impossible to tell whether the overall rate of shootings in Philadelphia is high or low since police shootings are not tracked nationwide. However, the rate seems high when compared with data published by the New York Police Department, the New York Times reported.