Phoenix Police More Likely to Shoot & Kill, and to be Attacked by a Suspect

A recent investigation by the Arizona Republic found that a police officer in Phoenix, Arizona is more likely to be attacked by a suspect than in any other of the nation’s ten largest cities, and also is more likely to shoot and kill. From 1996-2000, Phoenix police were also more than 2 _ times as likely to use deadly force as officers in larger cities such as Los Angeles and New York. Police oversight groups are now considering potential causes of the troubling statistics, including inexperience, haste in pulling the trigger, and a lack of the skills necessary to defuse potentially violent confrontations.

More than 50% of police shootings in Phoenix involve officers with fewer than seven years on the force. Attorney Richard Treon, who specializes in police use of force, notes: “Instead of waiting the person out or doing things that could have been done to avoid the confrontational aspect of it, they seem to escalate it. They need to understand when a human life is involved, taking a little time is not a great imposition on them as police.” In response, the Phoenix police department asserts that it is developing “stress inoculation training” as well as tactical training for de-escalation of confrontational situations with suspects.

Studies by the National Center for Women & Policing show that the continued under-representation of women in policing is a significant contributing factor to the widespread excessive force and corruption scandals plaguing law enforcement today. Women police officers utilize a style of policing that relies less on physical force and more on communications skills. As a result, women are often better at defusing potentially violent confrontations, and are less likely to become involved in use of excessive force situations. Yet, in 2001, women accounted for only 12.7% of all sworn law enforcement positions in large agencies.


Villa & Konig, The Arizona Republic, 2/26/03

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