LAPD shoot blacks, mentally ill disproportionately, report finds

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When Los Angeles police fire at suspects, their targets are disproportionately black or mentally ill, according to data compiled by the department. (KABC)

From LAPD headquarters to Skid Row, protesters marked the death one year ago of Charly "Africa" Keunang, who was shot by officers in a clash recorded in cellphone video.

It's but one of dozens of incidents reviewed by LAPD. On Tuesday, the department's force investigation division presented a report that added up and dissected the numbers for 2015.

What factors connect them? How is LAPD responding?

LAPD officers shot 48 suspects. Four out of 10 were mentally ill.

The ethnic breakdown of those shot: For Hispanics, the numbers mirror the population. For blacks, it is higher.

"For black suspects, it was about two-and-a-half times their percentage of the population," said Matt Johnson, president of the police commission.

A question raised by the numbers: What yardstick should LAPD use to assess its goals and its progress?

"Is it fair to expect that police use-of-force should follow demographic lines? Or is it fair to expect that police use-of-force should follow police contact lines? Or should it follow arrest lines," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said.

Officers are more frequently using less than lethal weapons instead of guns. Taser use is up 24 percent over the previous year, and bean bag shot guns are up 31 percent.

As for the sharp increase in the number of mentally ill people shot by police last year, Beck said there's no one explanation but that overall, officers had more interactions with the mentally ill as the number of homeless people in the city has increased.

LAPD says it has already started new training for mental health intervention. The 300-page report will guide further discussion about more training and potential policy changes.

Some key figures on display included how many times officers interacted with the public: 1.5 million. Of those, force was used in 0.13 percent of those cases.

Beck stressed police officers respond to a violent world.

"What they do every day and the challenges they face are truly daunting," Beck said.

The commission meeting was disrupted for several minutes after two dozen protesters stood up when Beck began speaking. Protesters shouted "Can't kill Africa!" while one demonstrator yelled that officers have a "shoot-to-kill policy."

The commission found the shooting was justified, and Beck has said Keunang grabbed for a rookie police officer's gun after ignoring commands and becoming combative.

The demonstration grew tense but remained peaceful. Protesters were escorted out of the meeting, and no arrests were made.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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