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NEW YORK -- The NYPD got favorable reviews from a think tank hired to study firearms training, but the lead analyst suggested he was remiss in not factoring in the racial background of those shot at by police.
"We did not explicitly in the cases line it up in terms of ethnicity," Rand Corp. senior fellow Bernard Rostker said in response to a reporter's question. "Your point is well taken and I would say is an oversight.
"Sorry about that."
That oversight, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, means the NYPD can't address a most serious issue.
"This report does nothing to answer the major questions that many New Yorkers were asking after the Bell shooting, including why officers are firing so many shots at civilians and why blacks and Latinos seem to be such a target for police shootings," said Christopher Dunn, the NYCLU's executive legal director. "Simply put, this is a major disappointment and a lost opportunity."
Rand was paid $350,000 by the Police Foundation, a private group that raises money for police causes, to look at how police officers are trained to use their weapons and how the NYPD reviews all police shootings.
The study was ordered in January 2007, less than two months after Sean Bell was shot dead in a barrage of 50 police bullets after leaving his bachelor party at a Jamaica strip club.
The study focused on 455 shootings that were adjudicated in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
About 45 of the shootings involved civilian fatalities, police said, and while the Bell shooting was not in the study, it included other high-profile incidents, such as the one in which teenager Timothy Stansbury was shot to death in a Brooklyn housing project.
According to the study:
Officers involved in shootings tend to have more negative marks in their files than those who were at the shooting scene but did not fire. Such marks warrant closer scrutiny.
Tactical training should be more varied and involve more street life scenarios and academy classes should be staggered, with each class smaller to foster more individualized training.
The Firearms Discharge Review Board should better analyze tactics used in each shooting and develop from each review a lesson plan to be used in subsequent training.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the suggestions would be reviewed.
"We don't have all the answers," he said. "We know that."
Kelly also said the department will almost certainly start a pilot program, suggested by Rand, in which patrol officers are equipped with Taser stun guns meant to be used to subdue a suspect before an officer is forced to resort to gunfire.
The NYPD announced Saturday it was expanding its use of Tasers, with sergeants carrying them on their belts.
Previously, such weapons were kept in the trunks of patrol cars because older models were heavier and more cumbersome than the current version.
Rand said a Taser could have been used in 25 of the 455 shootings. Three of those 25 shootings involved fatalities.
Kelly, however, did not fully embrace the idea that Tasers could one day be a standard part of a patrol officer's repertoire.
He noted the weapons controversy - it has been blamed for a number of deaths across the country and it has sparked accusations of misuse - and suggested it is better used in the hands of supervisors.