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Number of Columbus Police Shootings Down

Two years ago, a WOSU investigation found that in 2011 and 2012 Columbus police shot more people per capita than police in New York City. But in the last year the number of police shootings by Columbus officers has dropped. Just a couple of years ago, Columbus police were averaging more than 20 police related shootings a year. In those three years, Columbus officers killed 20 people. But last year police shootings were cut in half. Columbus officers shot at 9 people - four of them died. Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs says she’s not quite sure what explains the decrease. But she says she’s been working to reduce the number of police-involved shootings, in part through revised training. “My thing is that it’s not all about using force or firearms. It’s also about using your skills, your tactics, your strategies,” Jacobs says. Jacobs has implemented revised training scenarios that all officers, including new recruits, now participate in. “You could win the situation without using your weapon: loud verbal commands, taking cover, making good decisions on where to pursue, how to pursue, and when to use your firearm,” Jacobs says. Jacobs also suspects that intense media scrutiny – and public pressure – is causing police to re-think how they handle a potentially deadly situation. “There’s been more talk about police officers being criminally charged with their use of force than I’ve heard in most of my career,” Jacobs says. All of a sudden the public is talking about putting police officers in jail for doing the things that they sometimes are forced to do in the confrontations that they have on a regular basis. That’s scary. No agency tracks the number of police involved shootings nationally. But Maria Haberfeld, a professor of police science at John Jay College in New York believes that such incidents have not increased; it’s the recordings of ones that do happen that are on the rise. “They’re not up; they’re definitely not up. But there is more technology more video cameras both within the police department and the public right now is recording every move of every police officer,” Haberfeld says. Haberfeld believes there’s a rush to judgment by the public when deadly police actions occur. “It’s very disturbing to me for someone who has studied police use of force for over two decades to hear everybody – regardless of their age or profession or background – expressing their opinion in a very informed way when they really don’t know anything about police use of force and what is justified and what is not,” Haberfeld says. But critics say more can be done. “Every death should count.” Amna Akbar is a professor at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law. She says there should be some sort of independent investigative system when a police shooting occurs. “I think a central reason why police overuse violence with encounters with the public is the lack of accountability for police use of force. There’s not sufficient transparency, not sufficient accountability and so that has led to the culture of impunity that we are talking about as a country today,” Akbar says. Chief Jacobs opposed the idea of an independent review board. She does think that enhanced training for police officers will go a long way in preserving the lives of citizens. “In our decision-making training we’re always trying to figure out a scenario that won’t make them think that the firearm is the answer or that force is the answer,” Jacobs says.