We’ve all heard it, that the police shot someone because they were “going for something in their waistband” or their car, or behind their back. Well a recent look into the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shows that about half of these cases are later determined to involve unarmed civilians.
Referred to as “waistband shootings”, according to the LA Times, these shootings are worthy of looking at because when an officer justifies their use of deadly force by saying the civilian was reaching for a weapon, this version of events can be “fabricated after the fact.” While not all deputies are lying when they say a civilian was reaching for a weapon, the study begs the question, just how many are and for those who aren’t what can be done to prevent unnecessary similar shootings?
In 1992 a similar study was released where the number of officer shootings where deputies didn’t see a weapon was at 9. Last year, that number was found to be 15. In addition, 2010 saw the largest number of officer shootings where the citizen turned out to be unarmed altogether.
Interestingly, the study says that the number of police shootings usually correlates with the homicide rate. But that can’t be said for 2009 and 2010, where the homicide rate had fallen but police shootings rose.
Though officials caution people to not make hasty judgments about the department after the report and swears there is no unequal enforcement or suspicion placed on minorities, the study also showed that 61% of the suspects shot at by deputies were Latino, 29% were black, and only 10% were white. These numbers are even more exaggerated that the racial disparities reflected in the annual arrest rates.
Of particular concern is one station in the Sheriff’s arsenal—the Century Station. This station oversees some of the more crime ridden neighborhoods and the deputies here have fired their weapons more frequently than the other stations, nearly twice as often. Officials with the department say this is solely due to the neighborhoods that these particular deputies must work in.
The likelihood of anyone being shot by police is pretty slim, but the danger is there. This is why many young men are told, when stopped by police, to keep their hands on the steering wheel until the officer tells you to get something or move them. It’s a sad state of affairs when someone who is innocent must be cautious of their actions to not invoke the suspicions and potential gun fire from a police officer or sheriff’s deputy.
It seems when you are found on the wrong side of the law, the police don’t hold back on their suspicions and judgments. This is just one of the reasons it can feel like you might not get a fair shake when you are charged with a crime.
If you are facing criminal charges and need someone in your corner, contact our offices today to discuss your case.