PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- June 19 was the last time there was an officer-involved shooting in the Phoenix. It's been 54 days.

Just a few months ago, we heard about officer-involved shootings almost weekly.

Newly released numbers show how many officer-involved shootings there were in five major cities. Last year, Phoenix had the most shootings -- 44. That number was more than double places like Houston and San Antonio.

This year, Phoenix is at nine officer-involved shootings so far. That's fewer than Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Houston.

[WATCH: What's driving the decline?]

Nate Gafvert, the president of the Mesa Police Association, said shootings are traumatizing for everyone.

"Every year they [those involved] remember the exact date," said Gafvert. "It's a terrible anniversary that they remember and gives them anxiety every year when that date comes up."

[MAP: 2019 officer-involved shootings in Arizona]

"Forty-four people last year, and nine people this year were shot. We should not be surprised or happy that we have not had a shooting in 54 days," said Viri Hernandez, the director at Poder in Action.

Poder in Action, a Maryvale-based nonprofit organization previously known as Center for Neighborhood Leadership, believes numbers are down because more people in the community are speaking out.

"What we've been seeing is increased discipline might be a combination of what is making them say, 'Oh, maybe I should not brutalize this person,'" said Hernandez.

[RELATED: Buckeye using more less-lethal guns to prevent officer-involved shootings]

"Beginning midway through 2018, we reached out to the National Police Foundation to help look at what was taking place," Sgt. Vince Lewis with Phoenix Police Department said. "Their recommendations were published in April of 2019, and we are committed to implementing each of them. Progress is being made, and we have shared updates on our website. Training is just one part. Our hope is that our relationship with the community strengthens as we work together on solutions going forward."

[READ MORE: Phoenix police release report on 2018 officer-involved shootings]

[AND THIS: Phoenix PD announces new policy tracking when officers point guns at people]

Andy Anderson, a retired assistant chief with the Phoenix Police Department, reviews cases to determine if officers involved acted reasonably. Anderson released this statement offering his insight to why numbers may be going down.

It is good news to hear that we have gone 54 days without a police shooting in the Valley. But we must understand that the officer's training and conduct is only half of that equation. Officers are trained to react based on what they or others are threatened with at the time of an incident. There has been a lot of coverage local and national about police shootings. Hopefully, that coverage has made everyone more aware of better ways to interact with law enforcement and played a role in reducing the number of confrontational contacts officers are experiencing.

Law Enforcement agencies must continue to train and look for less lethal force options and officers must continue to improve upon how they do their jobs. However, when an individual is confrontational and threatens deadly force against an officer or others, the outcome is predictable. Officers are forced to make split second decisions that are later evaluated for weeks and months. The evaluator can replay the video, slow it down, and even freeze it. The officer does not get that opportunity. Their decision must be based on what they knew at the time they used force and our judgement of their actions must also be based on what we understood them to know at the time they used force.

The Phoenix Police Department is releasing the last of their body worn cameras today. Cameras are a positive step in law enforcement but they are not perfect. They will only give us a portion of the incident. The camera is not a human. It does not track the officer's eyes or sense when a suspect tightens their muscles or pushes back an officer (this can explain why a suspect says "I'm not resisting" but the officer continues to appear to be using force). The police agencies, community and media must still attempt to understand what an officer knew, felt, and perceived at the time they used force to begin to evaluate their conduct. Cameras will assist with this evaluation but the camera alone is not enough it is an additional tool.

Having said all that, we also understand that incidents of force in policing ebb and flow.

 


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