NEWARK, N.J. - More than three-quarters of the 47 people shot at by New Jersey police this year were black or Hispanic, according to a newspaper analysis of state records. Six of the 47 died.
Police, who were generally white, missed their targets more often than they hit them, and one-fourth of the 47 shootings through Oct. 31 took place in Newark, the Star-Ledger of Newark reported yesterday.
Officers fired at vehicles being driven at them in about one of every four shootings, according to the newspaper, which analyzed records from the state Attorney General's Office. That office investigates each time an officer fires at a person.
Most of the shootings were by officers returning fire or shooting at an armed person, the Star-Ledger found.
Under state guidelines, officers may use deadly force to prevent themselves or others from being killed or seriously injured. Nearly all of the shootings remain under investigation.
Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said any conclusions about racial disparities must await the results of each investigation.
"For the most part, we are not talking about discretionary law enforcement conduct," Aseltine told the newspaper. "In most of these cases, they were responding to crimes that were called in by citizens. So, they were responding to situations where they were faced with a threat that compelled them to act."
Since 1996, three-quarters of those killed or wounded by police in New Jersey were black or Hispanic, and they were generally in cities. Only a few officers were indicted for unjustified use of force, the newspaper found.
Nationally, about half of those killed by police from 2003 to 2005 were black or Hispanic; it was 61 percent in New Jersey.
David Jones, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association, said the findings make sense since urban areas see most of the gang- and drug-related violent crimes, and are where most blacks and Hispanics reside.
Police "are dealing with an element that is predisposed to violence," Jones told the Star-Ledger. "And, in the vast majority of instances, the cop is shooting back."