Police gunfire ending in death is sharply down in Philadelphia, a trend that follows department efforts to reduce the use of lethal force, police reports show.

So far in 2014, police officers have shot and killed four people.

By the same date last year, they had killed 12.

And in 2012 by this date, officers had killed 16.

From 2010 through 2014, one Philadelphia police officer - Moses Walker Jr. - was shot and killed. But Walker, who was shot in 2012 after completing his shift, was not in uniform.

From 2010 through 2013 (the most recent years for which data are available), police said, 218 officers were wounded by a weapon.

In spring 2013, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey invited federal experts to examine the department's practices as part of a "collaborative review."

The request came as a Philly.com news report documented a spike in police-involved shootings despite a citywide drop in crime. In 2012, 59 people were shot, 16 of them killed, the highest one-year tally in a decade.

Philadelphia has paid more than $2.5 million in the last decade to settle dozens of lawsuits that resulted from shootings by police, records show.

U.S. Justice Department experts are expected to recommend by year's end how Philadelphia police can further reduce the use of deadly force.

Already, 2,500 Philadelphia officers - more than a third of the force - have gone through crisis-intervention training designed to help them de-escalate confrontations before they erupt into violence, Ramsey has said.

The department has also increased "reality-based" training, in which officers confront unpredictable situations in video role-playing situations.

Earlier this year, it upgraded its directive governing lethal force to add a "sanctity of life" phrase attesting that the "application of deadly force is a measure to be employed only in the most extreme circumstances."

In all, Philadelphia police have fatally shot 54 people in the last five years, according to records maintained by Pennsylvania state police. Of that group, demographic information was available for 52.

Of those 52, the average age was 30; the youngest was 18.

Of the 52 slain, 51 were male. Three out of four were African American. An additional 18 percent of the suspects were Hispanic. Two-thirds of the officers involved were white.

In the earlier cases of deadly police gunfire in 2014, the men shot dead were armed in two of the three incidents.

The department this year began posting its narratives of all fatal shootings on its website. The following accounts of the three deaths earlier in 2014 are drawn from the website.

At The Inquirer's request, the department also gave the race of those killed and of the officers firing their weapons.

The year's first fatal shooting, on Feb. 4, came after police approached a man accused of stealing a cellphone. In a struggle, the officer was unable to subdue the suspect with pepper spray or a Taser.

The department said the suspect banged the officer's head against the ground. The officer got to his feet, and shot the suspect when he began moving towards him.

Killed was Ronald Gibbs, 45, whose convictions included assault and statutory sexual assault. The officer who shot him was white.

In the second incident, Aug. 1, police responding to a burglary alarm were greeted by a man who placed a gun against an officer's head.

The officer, an Asian man, smacked the gun away and fired his service weapon, killing Marcos E. Vazquez, 42, who had convictions for robberies, burglary, kidnapping, firearms offenses, drug dealing and theft.

In the third death, on Aug. 19, police shot and killed David Ellis, 29, after he emptied his .32-caliber revolver at officers, wounding Officer Stephen Korpalski. The officer was treated for a graze wound to his head and released.

Ellis, who had been convicted of drug dealing and a firearms offense, was hit by multiple shots. The officers who fired included two white men, a white woman and a Hispanic woman.

cmccoy@phillynews.com

215-854-4821 @CraigRMcCoy

Philly.com reporter Sam Wood contributed to this article.