I-Team Report: Deadly Force

December 21, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Chicago police officers were involved in more shootings the first nine months of this year than all of last year. Up to today, according to police records, officers here have shot 59 people, killing 22 of them -- nearly twice as many as last year. In all of 2010, Chicago police-involved shootings claimed 13 lives.

Fraternal Order of Police officials say the increase in shootings by officers is a result of understaffing and of gang and drug units being gutted -- all of which F.O.P. spokesman Pat Camden says allows more guns to stay on the street.

"As a result you've got people who are protecting narcotics territories, gang involvements-whatever the case may be-carrying guns. Police go to stop them and immediately the gun comes out and the next thing you know they're pointing a gun at an officer and it immediately puts him in a defensive posture. What else is he supposed to do?" said Camden.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy denies that police resources have anything to do with it. In a statement to the I-Team, McCarthy said, "Chicago Police Department officers are on our streets each and every day keeping our communities and neighborhoods safe. This is not an issue of understaffing or dissolving special units."

There is consensus that the threat of illegal guns has a lot to do with the increase in shootings by officers. Chicago police say they remove more guns from the streets than any other city in the nation. CPD officials say they have removed 7,300 guns so far this year.

Supt. Mccarthy said, "typically illegal guns bring violence with them and as our officers work to keep our streets safe, they are confronted with violent offenders. Officers must make a split-second decision when confronted with a potentially deadly situation." By comparison, he says, for every gun taken off the street by New York City police, CPD take two guns off the streets here.

In New York, despite a well publicized streetside gun battle between police and suspects...

"The police turned and they started coming and the police shoot him up and kill him," said Diana Vargas, witness.

The NYPD still has far fewer officer-involved shootings than Chicago, even though New York has three times as many residents and three times as many police officers. So far this year, New York City police have shot and killed eight people. Chicago: 22. New York's police commissioner credits restraint by officers.

"Police officers serve and protect. Part of that serving does not include being shot by somebody carrying a gun. Restraint has nothing to do with it. Survival does," said Camden.

Chicago police officers, administrators and union officials also point to increased threats facing law enforcement today: the number killed in the line of duty up nationally and aggravated assaults and batteries of police have doubled in the past decade in Chicago.

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