The “Collaborative Reform Initiative” noted 59 occurrences of unarmed suspects being fatally shot by Philadelphia police, and half of those cases were brought on by a “perception failure” on the part of the police officer, who mistook something or some action for a threat. The rate of threat perception failure went up when the suspect was African-American.
The report further concluded that there exists “an undercurrent of significant strife between the community” and the city’s law enforcement.
In the seven-year period examined, 81% of those shot by police were African-American men in their 20s. More than half of the officers involved in the shootings are white (59%), and most of the shootings occurred in majority black neighborhoods.
According to the 2010 census, the city is 43.3% black.
The Justice Department outlined 91 recommendations based on its report, and the city’s police commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who asked for the investigation, has agreed to expeditiously implement sweeping changes.
"We certainly are looking at each and every one, and coming up with a strategy for each recommendation," Ramsey told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“We need to lower all the numbers,” he said. “Folks need to stop killing each other.”
Investigators say that, because there is no aggregate of national data of officer-involved shootings, it’s impossible to put the Philadelphia numbers into context.
“Therefore, we cannot say whether this number is high or low,” the report states.
US Attorney General Eric Holder has called the lack of national data “unacceptable.”
“The troubling reality is that we lack the ability right now to comprehensively track the number of incidents of either uses of force directed at police officers or uses of force by police,” Holder said during a speech earlier this year.
The DOJ found that Philadelphia officers are in dire need of regular, consistent training on the department’s deadly force policy, and that officers do not receive systematic training on firearms.
Recommendations from the report include the creation of a unit within the department for investigating every instance of use of deadly force, letting an independent agency investigate the shootings of unarmed suspects, the release of details on any shooting at a press conference within three days of the incident, and better training for officers who encounter people “physically or mentally incapable of responding to police commands.”