DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Since January, Dallas Police have opened fire on seven suspects, a CBS 11 investigation has found. But according to city crime statistics, officers are not the only ones taking aim –– they appear to be under attack as well.
Police Chief David Brown admitted concern about the numbers. He said he is especially concerned because the city’s crime rate typically rises alongside the summer temperatures.
“Giving the totality of the spree this early in the year, potentially going into summer and having it escalate; we don’t want that to happen,” said Chief Brown.
According to FBI crime statistics for North Texas, Dallas Police reported that they shot and killed nine people in 2010. That’s more than any other city in Texas.
The suspects were all men between the ages of 19 and 51. Five of them were white. Four of them were black.
Police in Houston killed eight suspects that year. San Antonio officers shot and killed seven. Both of those cities have larger populations than Dallas.
Out of all U.S. municipalities, Dallas ranks sixth for officer-involved shooting deaths. In 2010, Los Angeles police officers shot and killed 38 suspects, more than any other city that year.
Phoenix followed with 16 suspects shot and killed. Chicago had 14. Philadelphia and Detroit both had 12. Oklahoma City had 10. Kansas City tied Dallas with nine suspects killed.
By comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that Dallas had a population of 1,197,816 in 2010. San Diego had only a slightly larger reported population, 1,307,402, but officers there shot and killed nearly half as many suspects –– five.
Chief Brown says he does not believe this means Dallas officers are more likely to shoot.
“We are not apologizing for our officers surviving deadly force confrontation,” he said. “If citizens point guns at our officers, we ought to be able to protect ourselves.”
The statistics also show how dangerous it is to be an officer.
From 2001 to 2010, Texas had the second highest number of officers killed on the streets in the country. Forty-five officers died in that ten- year period.
The only city that had more officers killed was Los Angles, where 50 police officers died in the line of duty during that decade.
“We know when we put this uniform on we may not come home that night, “said Chief Brown. “If we’re not willing to give our lives, criminals will run our cities.”
“The South is very prone to violence,“ said Dr. Phillip Lyons, a professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University.
He spent 10 years as a commissioned police officer on the streets. Lyons cautions against over reacting to the statistics.
“The fact is when you’re dealing with small numbers like six or eight or 10, it really doesn’t take much for us to see something that looks like a very significant increase even though, in fact, it may be based on a very small number,” he said.
But Dr. Lyons says officer-involved shootings, like the city of Dallas has experienced, can actually trigger more violence.
“Officers tend to be more on guard when an episode of violence or incidence has taken place or when an officer has to use deadly force to protect him or herself,” Lyons said.
Despite the size of the numbers, the statistics do concern Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway.
“It’s a problem and the problem is not stabilized, it’s growing,” he said. “I think we need to look at it evenly. I think we need to look at the police department and I think we need to look at the people involved.”
Caraway believes the first question is where the guns found on the street are coming from and how they fall in the hands of criminals. But he’s leaving the solutions to Dallas’s top cop.
Chief Brown says the answer is “communication.”
“I think talking with you today is important for the public to see that I am willing to sit and talk honestly about what the police department can do to mitigate violence and what the public can do to mitigate violence,” he said. “The summer is here. It’s upon us. And, we see most of our violence in the summer.”
Chief Brown offered some suggestions to the public for help in reducing misunderstanding between the public and police.
He asks all citizens stopped by the police to immediately tell an officer whether they have a gun in the car.
Also, he is encouraging people with mentally ill family members to approach officers in their community and discuss the situation if they believe there’s a possibility that the family member could have contact with law enforcement officers.
Finally, Chief Brown is calling on his own officers to remember their training when it comes time to interact with the public.
He does not want his officers reaching into suspects’ cars, particularly when the cars are running. He said he hopes these and other measures will help avoid serious misunderstandings that can escalate in violence.