Last Friday, Los Angeles Police Department officers shot dead a mentally ill man who had already gotten out of his car after a police chase with his hands up.
The incident, which was broadcast on national television for all to judge, was the latest in a string of more than a dozen police shootings that have surfaced in the news just in the last few months. Before that, it was the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Tyler Comstock after his father called the cops to report that his son drove away in his car. And other incidents involved death during traffic stop, calls to police for help with a mentally ill family member, and a man whose watering hose was mistaken for a gun.
While national data is not collected on police shootings, available studies suggest excessive use of police force is rarely punished. In the Iowa incident, the county attorney deemed the shooting legally justified, raising renewed questions about when police can and should turn to use of a gun, when another tactic or tool might do the job. While the LAPD incident is still under investigation, a critical look back at several of the other recent incidents through ThinkProgress interviews with former officers, firearms trainers, and academics, reveal that policy and training may be as much to blame as human error.