A recent rise in the number of officer-involved shootings in Long Beach has shaken residents in the area. The city is responding by forming an advisory board to review such incidents. Hetty Chang reports from Long Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
The Long Beach Police Department, up against heavy scrutiny for its number of officer involved shootings, now has a "use of force" advisory group, which was formed six weeks ago, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said.
There have been 21 officer involved shootings in Long Beach so far this year, compared to nine in the same period last year, he said.
"We looked at where we were this year compared to last year with the number of officer involved shootings, looking at use of force in an effort to say are we where we need to be?" McDonnell said. "(It's) to address some community concerns that were raised as to the tactics being employed, equipment used and try again to take a critical assessment to see, can we do a better job than we have been?"
Of the shootings, which include accidental discharges and incidents with animals, six have been fatal, five have been non-fatal and four have been classified as "no hit," according to police.
In 10 instances, the suspects had firearms, a replica of firearms or other weapons.
Shirley Lowery, the mother of John Del Real, the 39-year old who was shot and killed by police in September, said it's about time for police to be held accountable for their actions.
"There's been a lot of them," said Lowery from her backyard where she spent a lot of time with her son. "I thought it used to be if you stop someone or did shoot them that you didn't shoot to kill them and that seems to be the norm now."
When confronted with a life-threatening situation, Long Beach police shoot to "stop the behavior that's threatening," McDonnell said. Aiming at the center mass gives police the greatest likelihood of stopping that behavior, he said.
While Lowery hopes the advisory board is a step in the right direction, she has many questions about the newly formed committee.
"My biggest question is -- is the committee going to be comprised of the police department, political officials?"
The board will include community members and internal and external use of force experts, according to police.
The increase in officer involved shooting incidents is concerning to the chief, but he also said the type of calls his officers are responding to have also changed.
"We've had an increase in calls where officers are dispatched to calls with a man with a gun. We've seized more weapons than we've had last year," said McDonnell. "Looking at the big picture, there are more guns on the streets."
Del Real's family is currently filing a civil rights lawsuit against the police department.
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