Police gunfire in Philadelphia is newly under scrutiny now that Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has asked for federal assistance in a comprehensive review of the use of deadly force by the department, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Ramsey took the step amid a violent week in which officers shot seven civilians, killing four. In six of the shootings, the suspects were brandishing handguns; in the seventh, an officer shot and killed a man who lunged at officers with a knife.
Police fatally shot or wounded 52 people last year, the highest figure since Ramsey became commissioner in 2008. In recent years, taxpayer payments to settle lawsuits filed by shooting victims have soared. Since 2009, the city has paid $11.6 million to resolve such suits, with annual payouts far higher than in previous years. Even though police and prosecutors have cleared the officers of wrongdoing, city lawyers have settled more than 50 shooting civil suits in recent years. The lawyers say they were taking a tactical step to avoid the financial risk of courtroom verdicts.