By Fiona Ortiz
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago police shot people in four incidents in the first three months of 2016, marking a drop in police shootings in the second-largest U.S. city at a time of national outcry over police use of lethal force.
From 2008 to 2014, there were an average of 12 incidents per quarter in which Chicago officers shot someone, according to data from the Independent Police Review Authority, an oversight body. The figures include both fatal and non-fatal shootings, and an incident sometimes includes more than one person hit by a bullet.
That quarterly average fell to seven last year.
Chicago was rocked by protests over police shootings last year after the city was forced by a judge to release a video of a white officer, Jason Van Dyke, shooting a 17-year-old black youth, Laquan McDonald, who was apparently walking away from police when he was shot 16 times.
In the wake of the protests, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired his police chief and the Justice Department started an investigation of the Chicago Police Department to see whether there was a pattern of excessive use of lethal force.
More than 74 percent of people shot by the police between 2008 and 2015 in Chicago were African American, while the population of the city is about one-third black.
According to a Reuters review of police shooting data from Chicago, New York, Houston and Los Angeles in the years from 2007 to 2014, Chicago consistently had more police shootings than the other biggest cities in the country.
Chicago police officers interviewed by Reuters have said they are policing less aggressively due to low morale.
The turmoil within the department, now led by a new interim chief appointed by Emanuel from its ranks, comes at a time when some violent crimes are surging in the city.
Nirej Sekhon, a professor of criminal law at Georgia State University College of Law who has studied Chicago police shootings, said it is too early to say what could be behind the drop in shootings.
In his study of police shootings in the city from 2007-2014 he claimed there may be a connection between such incidents and practices such as "stop and frisk," a policing strategy that has been controversial because of racial profiling.
"Maybe some of the more aggressive forms of policing that occur in minority communities have eased somewhat and that might have to do with the drop in police shootings," he said.
(Editing by Bill Trott)