Thu Nov 21, 2013, 06:55 PM
marble falls (7,010 posts)
More than a quarter of civilians shot by HPD in 5 years had no weapon [View all]
More than a quarter of civilians shot by HPD in 5 years had no weapon, and the last officer charged in a shooting was in 2004
By James Pinkerton
Houston police fired their guns at civilians more than 100 times in the last five years, resulting in numerous injuries and deaths, but never in charges against the officers.
About the series
From 2008 to 2012, officers shot 121 people, 52 of them fatally.
Police say their lives or others were threatened in all those incidents, although more than a quarter of the civilians shot by the Houston Police Department during that time were unarmed. Of the unarmed people shot, 10 died. They include a mentally ill double amputee in a wheelchair and a Navy veteran diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Officers shot unarmed civilians who “reached” or “grabbed” for their waistlines — or held objects such as cellphones or a hairbrush that police mistook for weapons.
Harris County grand juries have cleared HPD officers of criminal wrongdoing in all shootings from 2008 to 2012 that they have reviewed so far, a Houston Chronicle investigation has found.
The last time an HPD officer was charged for a shooting was in March 2004, when Arthur Carbonneau was indicted in the death of 14-year-old Eli Escobar Jr. Carbonneau was convicted of negligent homicide in that case. Since then, Houston police officers have been cleared by Harris County grand juries 288 consecutive times for shootings.
Very few HPD patrol vehicles, meanwhile, have dashboard cameras, denying officers and the public a proven method of documenting whether or not the use of force is appropriate. Jeff Monk, manager of HPD’s open records unit, said he was not aware of any HPD shooting from 2008 to 2012 that was captured on a dashboard camera.
Nearly 100% cleared
“There is no requirement that one has to be armed,” for an officer to use deadly force, McClelland said. “If I’m out here in the middle of the street, and I’m fighting for my life and you’re getting the best of me, and I decide to use deadly force to save my life, I have not committed a violation of the law even if you only had a paper clip in your pocket.”
His officers also rarely face discipline internally for shootings.
In the five years of records examined by the Chronicle, investigators with HPD’s internal affairs division reviewed 636 shootings of all types by officers, including shootings of animals and accidental discharges. They ruled that only one shooting was not justified and ordered a supervisor to counsel a patrol officer whose unholstered gun went off as he struggled to detain a suspect in August 2008.
The newspaper’s findings prompted serious questions among community activists and experts about the judgment shown by HPD officers. The number of shootings of unarmed suspects, in particular, alarmed Larry Karson, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Houston-Downtown.
“If one-quarter of the people you’re shooting are not truly a danger to the officer, it brings into question the training of the officers,” Karson said. “Are they getting an appropriate amount of training in what is called 'shoot/no-shoot' situations to learn to pay attention to things like cellphones, since we all now carry them?”
Part 1 of a 3 [art series. Well worth the read/
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