PHOENIX — The number of officer-involved shootings in Maricopa County decreased dramatically from 2018 to 2019.
According to data collected by ABC15, there were 82 officer-involved shootings in the valley in 2018, but that number plummeted to 40 officer-involved in 2019.
Phoenix police had the majority of the 2018 shootings - 44 - the most of any city in the nation. In 2019, they had dramatically less - 15 shootings. Fourteen people died.
"We want to make sure that number is someday at zero," community activist group Poder in Action said in a written statement. "Eliminating police violence is something our city leadership should be working towards every year, not just when Phoenix becomes a national embarrassment.”
While the sharp decline in Phoenix shootings could have many factors, the police department did make significant changes to curb violent encounters and increase transparency and accountability.
All patrol officers now wear body cameras, and they must report every time they point a gun at a person. There's also been an increased focus on training and responding to people with mental illness.
The Phoenix Police Department takes great pride in being an adaptable and learning organization," said Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, a Phoenix police spokeswoman. "We will continue to seek out opportunities to identify the needs of our community. A strong police department needs the support of its community and the community needs the support of the police department to achieve the goals of peace and safety."
One of the most controversial officer-involved shootings in 2019 involved the death of 14-year-old Antonio Arce. It's still unresolved. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office still hasn't decided whether Tempe officer Joseph Jaen will face criminal charges related to the shooting.
Due to a large number of police shootings in 2018, there has been a huge backlog of police shooting cases to review. The oldest pending case is from August 2018. In that case, a Phoenix officer shot Edward Brown in the back during a foot pursuit, causing paralysis. Brown was unarmed; however, police claim he tried to grab the officer's gun.