Phila. Police Shooting Probes Can Drag On For Years


A Philadelphia police officer shot and wounded an unarmed drug suspect this month. The police Internal Affairs Bureau vowed to investigate the shooting, the eighth involving a cop this year. The Philadelphia Daily News says that if recent history is a guide, the investigation could take years in a city that has one of the highest rates of police shootings in the U.S. In 2006 and 2007, Philadelphia police officers shot 82 civilians, 37 of them fatally. Some of the dead had no weapon.

Cops involved in shootings receive only five days of additional training before returning to duty. A long list of unresolved cases has long troubled critics who argue that the investigative process is slow, secretive, and in need of a major overhaul. They say firearms training for cops must be beefed up to help them make life-or-death decisions in a split second. Mayor Michael Nutter has ordered Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to review policies on use of force – a response to the three fatal police-involved shootings that started off the year. Internal Affairs investigators turn their findings over to District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who decides if an officer should be cleared or face criminal charges. Some cases have been sitting in the D.A.’s office for two years. “Nobody can tell me how quickly this can be done,” Abraham said. “We don’t rush to judgment or drag our feet.” When he was chief in Washington, D.C., Ramsey asked the U.S. Justice Department to review all fatal shootings by police and instituted new firearms training that used role play and taught cops alternatives to firing weapons. These moves helped lead to a dramatic reduction in fatal shootings by police, from 16 in 1996 to five last year.


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