Over one six-day stretch over the past two weeks, South Florida police officers shot seven people, reports the Miami Herald. Two of them died. Four who survived were teenagers. Three of the teens were inside a truck. One of those shot was a reputed gang member. The two who died suffered from mental illness. The circumstances of the shootings varied, but their frequency was far higher than normal: Miami-Dade County averages about 1 1/2 police-related shootings a month. Some of the victims were black. The others were Hispanic.
The shootings show the difficult decisions police face when using lethal force, and how differing departmental policies can lead an officer in one city to open fire, while one in another city may have handled it differently. One of the shootings led to the death of a schizophrenic man, armed only with a broomstick. That incident may revive calls for local police to train their officers better on how to interact with the mentally ill. The contrast in departmental policies can be stark: More than three-quarters of Miami-Dade Police Department personnel patrolling the streets have received Crisis Intervention Training for dealing with the mentally ill. In Miami, about 25 percent of street cops have taken the course. Miami and Miami Beach police permit firing into a moving vehicle only if a weapon is visible. Miami-Dade police consider the vehicle a weapon if they believe it is endangering their lives or others, and can open fire for protection.