Police officers are firing their weapons less and hitting fewer unintended targets, statistics show, despite the wounding of two bystanders during a police confrontation over the weekend with a suspect in Times Square.
The number of incidents where officers intentionally fired was down to 27 this year compared to 42 at the same time last year, according to department statistics. Two bystanders were hit so far this year, down from 13 this time last year, including nine wounded near the Empire State Building during a confrontation with an armed man.
Police officials said the numbers are a product of the NYPD's emphasis on restraint.
"Public safety is a concern whenever the use of firearms is considered, and this is reflected in both our recruit and in-service training," said chief NYPD spokesman John McCarthy.
But other stats show when officers do shoot their guns, they only hit their target roughly 30 percent of the time. That suggests more training is needed, especially on deciding in a split-second when to fire during a conflict, according to Eugene O'Donnell, professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
"Every cop will tell you, it's the space between 'don't shoot' and firing that doesn't get the attention it deserves," he said. "The decision-making on when to shoot and when not to."
At the academy and on the job, officers are trained extensively on how, when and why to shoot. They are allowed to use deadly force when they reasonably believe they must do so to protect themselves or others from imminent death or serious physical injury, but are also told not to fire if doing so will unnecessarily endanger civilians.
The shooting Saturday a block from Times Square was touched off when officers noticed a man on foot weaving erratically through traffic and sometimes blocking vehicles, apparently because he wanted to be hit by a car, police said.
"If you made a list of the worst places to have shootouts in the United States ... this is at the top of the list," O'Donnell said. "There is really no good scenario for shooting."
As officers approached, the man reached into his pocket and pulled out a black object, pointing it at officers, according to a criminal complaint. Two officers fired a total of three shots, but the bullets struck a 54-year-old woman in the right knee and grazed a 35-year-old woman in the buttocks. One remained hospitalized; both were expected to recover.
The suspect, Glenn Broadnax, 35, was eventually subdued with a stun gun, police said. No weapon was found. He was charged with menacing and reckless endangerment, and is being held without bail. Broadnax also was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation. A call to the Legal Aid office representing him was not immediately returned.
As standard procedure, the weekend shooting will be reviewed first by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office to determine whether to investigate the officers, and then the department will review it.
"As in all police-involved shootings, the department conducts a full and thorough review and a final determination is not made until the full investigation into the incident has been completed," McCarthy said.