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Police Shootings Usually Preceded by Driving, Threats

Published On: Dec 24 2013 03:48:56 PM AKST   Updated On: Dec 12 2013 12:17:40 AM AKST
Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew

The moments leading to a shooting involving an Anchorage police officer are usually spent behind the wheel of a car, and certain minority groups are involved disproportionately often.

Those are some of the findings of a new University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center report that pulls from 20 years of data.

Between 1993 and 2013, Anchorage police officers were involved in 45 shootings, according to assistant professor Troy Payne, who prepared the report and presented its findings Wednesday.

Payne described officer-involved shootings as "extremely rare" compared to the sheer number of cases they handle, but still, 48 suspects were targeted, 17 were killed and 15 suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds. 12 were uninjured.

The goal was to learn when, were and why officers fire their guns, and the sample size is enough for the report to conclude African-Americans and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately involved.

This is the first time information, such as race of the suspect and officer, time of day and other factors have been compiled into a report.

In every case, the suspect had a weapon, and in most cases threats were made or a weapon was used; suspects were 30 or younger in roughly half of the cases, and about 85 percent of officers that pulled the trigger had at least a few years of experience.

And in 40 percent of the cases, the suspect had no traditional weapon but instead used their vehicle as a weapon.

Police Chief Mark Mew said that is what he found most surprising. He said the report overall prompted internal discussions about the department's policies.

“I want the public to know that we're doing our job," Mew said. "We need to find out what the change in the landscape is out there and look at ourselves how are we reacting to that and are we innovated enough to make those changes to keep the public safe."

APD said it would like to compile several years of data on situations that could escalated to shootings but were resolved more peacefully.

APD will also publish many of its policies next year in an effort to improve transparency, Mew said.

Channel 2's Chris Klint contributed to this story