New York City police officers fire their weapons far less often than they did a decade ago, a statistic that has dropped along with the crime rate. But when they do fire, even at an armed suspect, there is often no one returning fire at the officers. Officers hit their targets roughly 34 percent of the time, reports the New York Times. When they fire at dogs, roughly 55 percent of shots hit home. These details were among the myriad facts included in 11 years' worth of annual NYPD firearms-discharge reports that were handed over to the City Council and the New York Civil Liberties Union, both of which are examining the department's methods of stopping and arresting suspects.
Picked apart closely, the reports provide a remarkable portrait of how the nation's largest police force, with 36,000 officers, uses its guns. Every shot, from gunfight to accident to suicide, both on and off-duty, is accounted for. The number of bullets fired by officers dropped to 540 in 2006 from 1,292 in 1996 – the first year that the city's housing, transit and regular patrol forces were merged – with a few years of even lower numbers in between. Police officers opened fire 60 times at people in 2006, down from 147 in 1996. The police fatally shot 13 people in 2006, compared with 30 people a decade before. In 77 percent of all shootings since 1998 when civilians were the targets, police officers were not fired upon.