Updated June 9, 2023 - 9:55 am
The number of officer-involved shootings and civilians killed by members of the Metropolitan Police Department increased last year, but are trending downward over the past five years, according to a new department report.
There were 14 shootings by Las Vegas officers in 2022, with eight people killed, compared with 10 shootings and six dead in 2021, according to the report.
That’s still down from the number of shootings and civilian deaths recorded in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
The report showed that the percentage of Hispanic and white people shot increased, while the number of Black people shot declined.
How do the number of shootings compare?
The 14 shootings — 13 of which were against people holding a firearm or knife — are fewer than the department’s five-year average of 16. The incidents reached a high in 2018, with 22 shootings and 10 people killed, 16 shot and four killed in 2019 and 19 shot with nine killed in 2020.
The report stated that, of the people killed in police shootings last year:
— 43 percent were Hispanic.
— 43 percent were white.
— 14 percent were Black.
The ethnic breakdown of officers who took part in the shootings of civilians showed:
— 52 percent were white.
— 28 percent were Hispanic.
— 7 percent were Black.
— 7 percent were Asian.
— 7 percent were “other” demographics, such as Native American, Alaskan Native or two or more races.
The report, released Thursday, comes as the Metropolitan Police Department continues to build upon improvements made in 2020 to its use of force policy, provide “strong supervision” of officers at civilian shooting scenes and employ body-worn cameras “for transparency and accountability,” the agency stated.
“As the department continues its emphasis on de-escalation techniques and training the goal is to identify areas of improvement within the department as a whole, or for an individual department member, strengthening overall tactics, training, policy and accountability,” the report read.
Non-deadly force numbers down
Metro logged more than 1.4 million police events in 2022, and the 14 shooting incidents represent a small fraction of those events, the report stated.
Meanwhile, the report found that police-involved non-deadly force incidents decreased in 2022, after being on the upswing in recent years.
The department’s police and jail corrections officers used non-deadly force 905 times, a drop of 5 percent, the report stated.
According to the report, non-deadly force tactics used by Las Vegas police — who also oversee jail officers at the Clark County Detention Center — include rifle-propelled non-lethal foam projectiles, tasers, using bare hands without a weapon, unleashing police dogs that bite, shotguns loaded with non-lethal rounds and restraint chairs used to hold a person in place.
The most common non-lethal force methods used by police were:
— 642 empty-hand tactics.
— 151 electronic tasers.
— 51 projectile weapons.
— 25 dog bites.
Las Vegas officers also performed more than 301,000 vehicle stops in 2022 and pursued only a tiny fraction of fleeing vehicles — 82, or only 0.2 percent — but that was the highest number in the five-year period analyzed, the report stated.
The report also compared the demographics of Clark County with those of the police department’s.
The county is:
— 42 percent white.
— 31 percent Hispanic.
— 12 percent Black.
— 10 percent Asian/Pacific Islander.
— 5 percent other.
The department, comparatively, is:
— 59 percent white.
— 22 percent Hispanic.
— 7 percent Black.
— 6 percent Asian/Pacific Islander.
— 6 percent other.
Justin Iverson, an assistant professor at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law and a member of the school’s Race, Gender and Policing Program, said that the sample size of only 14 officer-involved shootings, with five racial categories, is too small to assess any racial trends given the size of Las Vegas’ population.
“When you account for the fact that there are so many firearms out there, 14 intuitively sounds like a low number to me, who doesn’t know the actual data,” he said.
The report’s findings reveal that 59 percent of the officers involved in shootings in 2022 had only between one and five years of service as cops, with Iverson noting that “the shootings, as minimal as they are, seem to be disproportionately involving new officers” who have less experience.
Overall, he applauded the department’s transparency and said the report features “a lot of valuable data and I don’t think it’s particularly damning to the department.”
West Juhl, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Nevada, had a more critical take on the report’s findings, saying it shows there is still work to be done to reduce officer-involved shootings.
“Seeing a year-over-year spike like this is a stark reminder that our community has a terrible track record in general of holding officers accountable for their use of lethal force,” Juhl said.
Juhl also said the community needs more systems in place with actual teeth to hold officers accountable for excessive force.
A spokesperson for Metro was not available Friday for questions about the report’s findings.