Emotions ran high this week with the start of the trial in Queens, N.Y., in the 50-shot police killing of Sean Bell, says New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman. For some New Yorkers, the entire police department “stands in the dock with the three indicted detectives, branded as out of control.” Statistics show that New York City police officers as a group are more restrained than ever in drawing their guns. “They're consistently going down,” said Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission, which studies crime and police procedures. In many American cities, “we've seen fairly substantial declines across the board in police shootings,” said Michael White, a former deputy sheriff in eastern Pennsylvania who teaches policing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
In 2006, the year of Mr. Bell's death, New York had 0.36 lethal police shootings for each 1,000 officers on the force. Phoenix that year had 3.79, Philadelphia 3.34, Detroit 1.90, Los Angeles 1.39, and Chicago 1.11. People in and outside the New York department mention factors like improved training techniques and stricter controls to hold officers accountable if they reach for their guns. With crime on the decline, police are less likely to find themselves in shooting situations. Training is “a lot more realistic and prepares officers much more adequately for what it's going to be like on the street,” said White.