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Police Shooting Incidents: The NYPD’s New Math

January 8, 2007

The NYPD must be desperate in attempting to portray itself as the soul of restraint, following the 50-bullet fatal police shooting of Sean Bell.

It is now applying a kind of new math, one not taught in any school.

Last Thursday, the day Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced the Rand Corporation would review the department’s weapons training and procedures, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne handed out to reporters at One Police Plaza a 10-point paper entitled, “Police Shooting Incidents.”

Here are the ten points.

l.“There were 13 fatal police shootings in 2006, compared to 9 in 2005.”
OK, Point One is pretty straightforward. It’s all downhill from here.

2. “The 9 fatal shootings in 2005 was the lowest number since 1973, when there were 54 [a decrease of 83 per cent.]”
Does this mean that the 54 fatal police shootings in the year 1973 was the second lowest on record? That’s what the sentence sounds like.

3.“During the 1990’s, there was an average of 25 fatal police shootings per year. Since 2002, it has averaged 12 per year.”
Uh oh. That would seem to contradict Point Two, no?

4.“In 2005, the rate of fatal police shootings per 1,000 was .25, the lowest rate since 1973 when it was 1.82 [a decrease of 86 per cent].”
Your Humble Servant makes no claim to be a rocket scientist. But can someone explain in English what those numbers mean?

5.“Compared to 1994, when there were 30 fatal police shootings at a rate of .99 per thousand officers, the 13 fatalities in 2006 at a rate a .36 per thousand officers represents a decrease of 57 per cent in the number and 64 per cent in the rate.”
What? Is there anyone out there who understands this?

6.“Based on a survey of 9 large American cities, New York has had the lowest rate of fatal police shootings per thousand offices each year from 2002-2005.”
Is this the same survey that led Browne to claim that New York had fewer fatal police shootings than L.A., Houston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami in 2006? Miami police chief John Timoney says Miami had no fatal police shootings in 2006.

7.“As of December 31, 2006, the number of officers involved in shooting incidents [155] was down 7 per cent from 2005 [167] and down 54 per cent from 1997 [334]”
What is the significance of these figures? Is there a reason that 1997 was selected as a comparison?

8.“The number of rounds fired in 2006 [540] was down 12 per cent from 2005 [616] and down 48 per cent from 1997 [1040].”
Again, what is the significance of these figures? Again, why was the year 1997 chosen for comparison?

9.“The average number of rounds fired per officer in 2006 [3.5] was down 5 per cent from 2005 [3.7] but up from 1997 [3.1]”

10.As of December 31, 2006, the number of suspects wounded in police shooting incidents in 2006 [23] was down 21 per cent from 2005 [29] and is down 41 per cent from 1997.”
What does this mean? That NYPD officers are increasingly missing their targets? Maybe the Rand study should investigate that.

Rand Notes. Calling for an outside study in the wake of controversy – as Kelly has done with the Rand Corporation in the wake of the Sean Bell shooting -- is vintage Kelly. Sometimes it works for him, sometimes not.

In the 1990s, when Kelly became police commissioner under David Dinkins amidst a burgeoning corruption scandal, Kelly hired an outside company to study the department’s Internal Affairs Division, notes a former top NYPD official. The study recommended the elimination of IAD’s field units into a centralized bureau. Hence, its current status as the Internal Affairs Bureau.

Taking office again in 2002, Kelly hired McKinsey and Company to examine the roles of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the department’s top brass during 9/11 – specifically their rushing to the World Trade Center immediately after the attack. The report criticized their actions.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, however, deep-sixed the report after Giuliani complained to him about it. When’s the last time you heard Kelly mention it?

The Secrets of Rudy.
Ignored in the brouhaha over Giuliani’s leaked political file is perhaps his greatest personal embarrassment. Forget his disgraced former police commissioner Bernie Kerik or his treatment of second wife Donna Hanover.

What about the issue he refuses to address, much less acknowledge – the revelation in Wayne Barrett’s book “Rudy “An Investigative Biography of Rudolph Giuliani” that Rudy’s father Harold, did jail time for armed robbery. [See pages 115-117 of Barrett’s book.]

The issue is not – nor should it be – whether Rudy is responsible for the sins of his pops. Of course, he is not. Rather, it is Giuliani’s refusal to address or even publicly acknowledge his father’s crimes.

Maybe, it’s that no one on his staff has the courage to ask him.

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt