Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams speaks prior to the funeral of Phoenix Police Officer Paul T. Rutherford outside Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria, Ariz.

— AP Photo/Matt York, File

PHOENIX — Police shootings in Phoenix plunged over the past year amid increased scrutiny of the department and new policies aimed at controlling use of force.

The Arizona Republic reported this week that Phoenix officers shot 15 people through Dec. 30, a dramatic drop from 2018, when police were involved in 44 shootings., half of them fatal That was the largest number of police shootings for any department nationwide.

The police shootings in 2019 are the lowest number of a decade in Phoenix, the fifth-largest city in the nation with some 1.6 million residents.

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Community advocates say the improvement is the result of increased scrutiny and new policies in the department. They say Phoenix police still need a civilian review board to increase accountability.

The newspaper reported the number of shootings across Arizona was also down from 117 in 2018 to about 50 in 2019, based on information from county attorney’s offices statewide.

While fewer police shootings occurred in 2019, the shootings were more often deadly.

Thirteen of the 15 police shootings in 2019 resulted in death.

Scrutiny of the department has been intense since early 2019, when a National Police Foundation study commissioned by the Phoenix department found that its 2018 police shootings were the highest in the nation. The report shed little light on possible reasons for the high number of shootings, but included recommended policy changes.

Police Chief Jeri Williams launched some changes in the department after dramatic bystander video emerged over the summer, showing a police officer aiming his gun and shouting obscene threats at a young black family being investigated for shoplifting. The couple said their 4-year-old daughter took a doll from a dollar store without their knowledge.

Since then, the department has issued hundreds of body cameras for officers and started documenting every time an officer points a gun at a person.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego has said she supports the changes and how Williams has balanced the well-being of her officers and the safety of city’s residents.

The Associated Press

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