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Police Shootings Up in L.A. Despite Mental Health Initiatives

Los Angeles police officials have been trying for years to curb officer shootings of people in crisis who are holding a knife, machete or other “edged weapon.” Despite rolling out policies to prevent gunfire in such encounters, a Los Angeles Times analysis shows that there have been more shootings this year than in all of 2022. The department is on pace to eclipse last year’s total of 11, the Times reports. In the first half of 2024, officers shot six people who were holding a sharp object while experiencing a behavioral or mental health crisis — a designation that includes those believed to be suicidal or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Four were killed. There have been 17 police shootings this year, including cases involving edged weapons. Since 2018, officers have opened fire in similar circumstances at least 56 times, killing 35 people and injuring 19 others. The Los Angeles Police Department’s public-facing data do not track killings of people in crisis. The Times’ review is based on a variety of records, such as information disclosed in lawsuits, reflecting shootings that aren’t necessarily counted in the department’s reports. Along with other agencies nationwide, the LAPD has adopted guidelines that prioritize de-escalation techniques and the use of “less lethal” alternatives to deadly force.


In one confrontation in Koreatown in the spring, video showed an officer fatally shot a man experiencing a bipolar episode in his parents’ apartment as he walked slowly toward police with a knife. “I want to make sure that all other efforts are exhausted before lethal force is used,” said police commission vice president Rasha Gerges Shields. LAPD officers are taught to use space and time to prevent confrontations from getting to the point where they are forced to fire their weapons, said Jonathan Wender of the police training firm Polis Solutions. In situations where a suspect is indoors and doesn’t pose a threat, Wender said, some agencies are training officers to simply “contain” instead of rushing in to make an arrest. Officers also are encouraged to use Tasers, beanbag shotguns or projectile launchers to try to subdue people in crisis. These “less lethal” weapons can prove ineffective or have unintended consequences, such as provoking a subject to charge at officers.




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