The New York City Police Department last week released its expanded use-of-force report for 2016, which includes both firearm and electrical weapon discharges for the first time.
As detailed in the 101-page report, the NYPD’s approximately 36,000 uniformed officers were involved in a total of 72 incidents of intentional firearms discharges resulting in 32 subjects shot, nine fatally. In return, one officer – Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo – was shot and killed and another 13 wounded while three committed suicide. About half of the incidents (37) were adversarial — against a potentially armed threat — while the other instances involved animal attacks (11) unintentional discharges (14) and unauthorized use or suicide attempts.
The numbers are an increase for a metropolis that saw 67 officer-involved shootings in 2015. Still, they are a far cry from 1971 when the city saw 12 officers and 93 subjects killed in over 800 recorded firearm incidents around the city.
In all, officers from the largest municipal police department in the nation fired 306 rounds in adversarial conflicts, a figure higher than in 2013 or 2014 but slightly down from 2015. Of those 70 officers who fired, about three out of four got off five rounds or fewer while six officers fired more than 10 rounds. Officers are recorded as hitting at least one subject in 32 out of 37 incidents. Nearly half of the officers involved in adversarial shootings were in plainclothes, with those from specialty units involved in rates higher than their proportion of the NYPD’s personnel.
The most common time that an unintentional or negligent discharge occurred was while officers were loading/unloading, holstering/unholstering, or cleaning their weapon. In the 14 recorded unintentional NYPD discharges, two officers sustained self-inflicted, non-fatal gunshot wounds. In another, an officer fired a round while unholstering at a private shooting range in Suffolk County, hitting a bystander in the groin as a result.
Information on the realities of modern urban gunfights surfaces in the report in the respect that, in three out of four incidents, officers engaged a suspect at ranges of 15 feet or less. Delving into handgun tactics, 13 percent of officers were forced to fire using a one-handed unsupported grip, and seven percent had to shoot from a sitting position.
As for demographics, the 43 apprehended suspects involved in shootings with the NYPD in 2016, on average were black (60 percent), male (97 percent) and under 30 years of age (52 percent).
The annual report for the first time included rates of taser and electronic weapon usage, of which over a third of the agency is trained to carry. The NYPD tallied 501 discharges including three on dogs, typically all occurring during arrest situations or when dealing with an emotionally disturbed person. While the X26 model Tasers the NYPD carries can be used to either fire cartridges or “drive-stun” a suspect in direct contact, officers deployed the former in all but 50 cases. Overall, the devices were reported to be effective 82 percent of the time. The agency also reported at least 227 deployments of OC spray and 95 occasions where impact weapons, such as batons, were used.
The report cited that, in 2016, force was reported in 1.3 percent of all arrests in the Big Apple, the lowest percentage since officials began tracking its use in arrest situations. Further, the City’s civilian review board recorded the fewest annual police force complaints in a decade. Of the more than 1,800 complaints, the board substantiated 60.
“As part of our commitment to accountability, we revised this report to provide a more comprehensive accounting of use of force by our Department,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill in a statement. “By bringing data on all use-of-force incidents together in one document, we are providing a more complete picture of these incidents.”