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updated: 1/3/2017 6:15 PM

Police: Officer-involved shootings 'not as prevalent' as perceived

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Officer-involved shootings are not tracked in the Uniform Crime Reporting statistics the FBI gathers from local police departments every year.

But that could change as the agency considers adding use of force by and against police officers to the list of violent crimes and property crimes counted nationwide, said Steven Casstevens, president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and police chief in Buffalo Grove.

The chiefs association Casstevens leads doesn't maintain a log of shootings by officers, either. But even during a time when officer-involved shootings gain national recognition on social media, suburban police officials say such episodes are relatively uncommon.

"It's not as prevalent as it may seem," Oak Brook Chief James Kruger said.

For example, in 2016, there were five officer-involved shootings in the Northwest and West suburbs, and three of them were fatal.

Officers are trained in de-escalation techniques to help avoid use of force. But it's tough for officers to rely solely on verbal tactics when a suspect is already showing physical violence, Casstevens said.

"The greatest percentage of the time, the police officer is responding to aggression from the subject," Casstevens said.

If the officer's life or the life of another person is in jeopardy, officers must make split-second decisions.

"These things happen so rapidly," Kruger said. "We're asking our officers to do a lot depending on the circumstances."

When an officer is involved in a shooting, it's standard procedure for an internal investigation to be conducted and an outside agency to run an independent probe to determine whether the use of force was justified.

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