2009-12-11 / Top Stories

Police-On-Police Shootings Task Force Meets

Governor David Paterson Governor David Paterson Governor David A. Paterson's Police-on-Police Shootings Task Force convened a series of public hearings in Albany, New York City and White Plains, inviting participants to speak about police-on-police confrontations and shootings. A wide array of current and former law enforcement officers, researchers, and community members testified before the Task Force as part of the ongoing examination of the incidents and their impact on individuals and their communities. Chairperson Christopher Stone presided over the meetings and was joined by members of the Task Force and its executive director, Damon Hewitt.

"The loss of any law enforcement official is tragic; but, when those lost are the victims of a fellow officer, it is particularly striking. These incidents demand our attention and require our response, which is why I created the Police-on-Police Shootings Task Force. Their careful consideration of these confrontations - both in New York State and across the nation - will provide a comprehensive, first-ofits kind understanding of an issue that affects us all," Paterson said. "I am pleased with the team's ongoing work and applaud their commitment to listening to many perspectives of the community, law enforcement and others. I look forward to receiving the final report."

"These public hearings have been incredibly valuable to our investigation and I thank Governor Paterson for his support throughout this process," Hewitt said. "In these tragedies there exists a common intersection of concern between the law enforcement community and the community at large. Just as a cross-section of people feels the loss and pain, during these hearings we have looked to this same cross-section of people to help craft the solutions."

The Task Force heard from experts in police training, as well as leaders of local and national police fraternal organizations and unions, who added their perspectives on changes to policy and practice that have the potential to increase officer safety and overall public safety. The hearings also included testimony from officers who survived police-on-police confrontations, as well as from the colleagues and families of those lost in fatal incidents. Combined with the Task Force's ongoing research, this testimony will provide a foundation for the Task Force's findings and recommendations, to be included in a final report to Paterson in March of 2010.

While the hearings took place in New York State, the Task Force is examining national data on fatal, mistaken-identity police-on-police shootings from 1981 - 2009. In that time span, there have been 26 such incidents: 14 of the officers killed were white, 10 were Black or African-American, and two were Hispanic. From 1981-1994, 10 white officers were killed in mistaken identity incidents, compared to only two Black and no Hispanic officers. However, from 1995-2009, 10 minority officers were killed during this time period - eight Black, two Hispanic - compared to four white officers. In 25 of the 27 total shooting fatalities, the victim officer was a male. The two female fatalities that were identified occurred in the 1980s. All of the confronting offices were male.

In addition, the Task Force is also investigating non-fatal police-on-police confrontations and shootings. Its preliminary findings through anecdotal interviews and survey shows that such incidents occur with far greater frequency than fatal incidents.

Under the Governor's direction, the Task Force is engaging in an unprecedented effort to explore the root causes of police-on-police confrontations by examining the range of operational, sociological, and psychological factors that may contribute to them, and how new training, tactics, policies, procedures, re-orientation and technology might help prevent them. The inquiry focuses on mistaken identity incidents between on-duty and off-duty officers, between uniformed and undercover officers, and between officers of different races, nationalities and ethnicities. For the first time, the tragic incidents that have taken place in the State of New York will be analyzed along with incidents that have taken place in other jurisdictions over a multi-year span. While the Task Force will not investigate specific incidents, it will make use of previous investigations and individual accounts to understand how and why such incidents occur and how they can be prevented.

The inquiry also considers the impact these incidents have on the community and the responses to these incidents by government, law enforcement agencies, and the general public. Through online tools, research, and public hearings, the Task Force solicits information from a broad and diverse range of sources, including law enforcement officers and executives, community leaders, scholars and other experts. The experiences, insights, and recommendations of current and former officers who have been at risk, or felt themselves at risk, are especially important. So, in addition to research and data collection efforts, the Task Force has launched a nationwide survey to capture their recommendations. The survey is at www.policeonpolicetf.ny.gov.

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