LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Los Angeles police officers fire at suspects, their targets are disproportionately black or mentally ill, according to the most comprehensive data on the use of force ever compiled by the department and released to the public Tuesday.
Of the 223 people shot at by Los Angeles police between 2011 and 2015, 77 were black, according to the report. That means 35 percent of those shot at by police were black, while blacks make up just 9 percent of the city's population.
Meanwhile the number of mentally ill people shot by police increased from five in 2014 to 14 last year. The 14 mentally ill people represent 37 percent of all the people shot by Los Angeles police in 2015, according to the report, which the police department presented Tuesday to the city's police commission, a civilian oversight panel.
The report emphasizes that "a vast majority of police interactions with the public do not involve use of force."
In 2015, for example, officers used force 1,924 times among more than 1.5 million contacts with members of the public, or 0.13 percent of the time, according to the report.
Police Chief Charlie Beck told the commission that he hopes the report informs discourse about police use of force.
"This is the framework upon which we will build a discussion that I think needs to happen not only in LA but probably in the whole country," he said.
Capt. John McMahon told the commission it's also important to look at crime and victim statistics for context when looking at the percentage of black people shot by police. For example, he said 42 percent of homicide victims in the city and 39 percent of those arrested for those crimes were black.
"Hopefully that provides some type of backdrop as to why that number is the way it is," McMahon said of the percentage of black people shot at by police. "Obviously that number being lower than overall crime figures — that may be perceived as a good thing, but this department won't rest until we get to zero."
As for the sharp increase in the number of mentally ill people shot by police last year, Beck said there's no one explanation but that overall, officers had more interactions with the mentally ill as the number of homeless people in the city has increased.
He said the department has stepped up training officers on how to handle the mentally ill and on less-than-lethal force options but added that "it's going to take a lot of time" for every officer to get all the additional training needed.
Tuesday's commission meeting was disrupted for several minutes after two dozen protesters stood up when Beck began speaking. They angrily shouted about the death of Charly "Africa" Keunang, a homeless black man shot by Los Angeles police six times a year ago Tuesday.
The commission found the shooting was justified, and Beck has said Keunang grabbed for a rookie police officer's gun after ignoring commands and becoming combative.
Protesters shouted "Can't kill Africa!" while one demonstrator yelled that officers have a "shoot-to-kill policy."
The demonstration grew tense but remained peaceful. Protesters were escorted out of the meeting and no arrests were made.
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