The annual firearms discharge report issued by the NYPD indicates that 2008 saw the smallest number of police shootings since formal records of such events were first kept, in 1971. According to the report, last year 125 police officers fired their weapons, compared with 148 officers opening fire in 2007. Cops also burned through fewer bullets last year, busting a total of 354 caps, compared with 588 in 2007. But the New York Civil Liberties Union says we still don't have the full picture, and last week they sued the NYPD for complete access to the department’s internal reports.
The NYCLU is demanding departmental reports generated whenever an officer fires a gun at a civilian, dating back to 1997. The NYPD has steadfastly refused Freedom of Information Law [FOIL] requests for such documents, which the NYCLU believes should be made public. But NYPD spokesman Paul Browne tells the Times, "The incomplete, preliminary documents sought in this lawsuit also contain police personnel information protected from disclosure under the civil rights law." Darn, if only there were some way to black out certain parts of documents to keep confidential info secret!
"The Police Department has a pattern of stonewalling the public and refusing to divulge even the most basic information about its activities. When the public doesn’t have basic information, it’s easy for the NYPD to selectively release data that gives the appearance of facts, but is not based on the truth," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman in a statement. According to the NYCLU, the group has a dozen outstanding FOIL that the Police Department is either "dragging its heels on or that are already in litigation."
And though fewer officers fired their weapons in 2008, the report released yesterday also revealed that more people were fatally shot by police: 13, compared with 10 in 2007. In police shootings where ethnicity could be determined, 75 percent were black; 22 percent were Hispanic; and three percent were white. And three officers were shot and wounded by criminals, but none fatally in 2008.