The New York City police’s 50-shot killing of bridegroom Sean Bell comes at a time when police officers are firing more bullets per shooting than they have in recent years, reports the Village Voice. Those and other numbers add more doubt to officials’ arguments that the city really is a less violent place–even without the Bell shooting. Last year, New York City police officers fired 616 bullets, about 30 percent more than the 477 annual average from 1999 to 2004. In just one incident last year, police fired 77 shots before winging a gunman who was returning fire in East Harlem. Including the Bell incident, New York cops have fired 483 shots this year, putting them on pace for fewer than last year but still about 12 percent more than the 477 average.
The oddest number of all is that in New York City between 1999 and 2005, major crime has plummeted by some 60,000 complaints, about 48 percent. And the number of police-involved shooting incidents has been lower, by about eight per year, during that time period. In other words, police have been getting into fewer shootouts but firing more once it’s on. In 2005, New York cops were less accurate than the bad guys shooting back at them, according to a confidential report obtained by the Voice. Police officials shrug off the increase in shots fired as an aberration; they maintain that the they run one of the most disciplined and restrained police departments in the U.S. when it comes to gun use. In 1972, New York cops fired an astounding 2,510 times, using slower-to-reload six-shot revolvers instead of today’s 16-round semiautomatics.