By Fiona Ortiz
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Chicago police shootings are declining and use of electrocuting Tasers is up, data released by a watchdog agency showed on Friday, suggesting training in non-lethal force is beginning to take hold in the embattled department.
Chicago police shot nine people in the first half of the year, continuing an 18-month trend of fewer average monthly shootings in a department that previously had more such incidents than other major U.S. cities, according to a quarterly report from the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA).
The figures include fatal and non-fatal shootings by members of the Chicago Police Department, which faces a federal investigation over its use of force and complaints of racial profiling.
In the past three months Chicago police use of Tasers jumped, IPRA said, citing an expansion in distribution of the generally non-lethal electroshock weapons to officers after protests last year over police shootings.
In the seven years between 2008 and 2014, Chicago police shot an average of four people a month. In 2015 the average was slightly over two people per month and that figure dropped to under two people in the six months to June. Experts say this could reflect a switch to less aggressive policing tactics.
More than 75 percent of people shot by the police in Chicago are black, in a city with an African-American population of roughly 30 percent.
Like other cities around the country, Chicago has seen protests over police tactics in the past year and a half, as widely viewed videos of shootings drew attention to long-standing issues of race, policing and lack of accountability for officers.
Every year from 2008-2014, Chicago police had significantly more police shootings than the three other largest U.S. cities, Los Angeles, Houston and New York City.
Last year Chicago police shootings dropped to 30, in line with Houston’s 29 and lower than Los Angeles’ 38, according to figures compiled by Reuters. New York 2015 figures are not yet available.
The IPRA report called on Chicago to adopt more restrictive rules on the use of lethal force by police officers.
The department will review the recommendations, said Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
New de-escalation training to reduce the intensity of conflicts, expanded use of Tasers to provide officers a less-lethal alternative, as well as more body cameras, are factors in the lower number of police shootings, Guglielmi said.
Meanwhile, violent crime has surged in Chicago, with shootings up 50 percent so far this year, compared with the same period last year, and murders up 43 percent.
(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Andrew Hay)