More than 50 police officers in fatal shootings this year had previously fired their guns in deadly on-duty shootings, reports the Washington Post. For a few officers, it was their third fatal shooting. For one officer, it was his fourth. The findings concern law enforcement experts, who said most officers never fire their weapons on the job. The analysis exposed another gap in the federal government's oversight of fatal police shootings: the absence of a system for tracking multiple shootings by individual officers. The 55 officers were identified in a Post project tracking fatal shootings by police in the line of duty. It is the first nationwide attempt to determine whether such shootings are isolated events in an officer's career or whether some officers repeatedly fire weapons in deadly encounters.
The Post also found that an additional 45 officers had previously been involved in non-fatal shootings. “It's a national embarrassment. We don't even know how many times cops pull their triggers,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina. In most cases, the person killed was armed and the shootings were found to be justified by authorities or were still under investigation. The shootings cut across departments of all sizes, involved officers on a variety of assignments and grew out of circumstances such as routine patrols, undercover police operations and standoffs with SWAT teams that spanned hours. Policing experts said the phenomenon has not been deeply studied nationwide, and a deeper review of the cases could root out officers who resort too often to deadly force and help officials develop strategies for officers to defuse or avoid volatile situations.