The news: Nationally, 125 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2009–”the fewest since 1959, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Behind the news: The statistics aren’t as encouraging for people who interacted with Chicago police officers during the past decade. Between 2005 and 2009, 75 people were fatally shot by police officers, an increase of 74.4 percent from the number of fatalities–”43–”between 2000 and 2004, according to the City of Chicago Independent Police Review Authority and a Chicago Reporter analysis.

The deadliest year came in 2008, when 22 people were fatally shot by Chicago police officers. The fewest fatalities from police gunfire–”five–”were recorded in 2001.

Robin Hood, pastor of Redeemed Outreach Ministries in North Lawndale, believes that the increase in the fatal shootings shows that police need to forge a better relationship with the communities they serve.

Hood stressed the importance of police officers engaging youth, noting that such a relationship will lead to mutual respect and perhaps fewer police shootings.

“Police come in the neighborhood, pull an African American over, put him against the fence, either take him to jail or something happens,” Hood said. “That has been the relationship for over 20 years, which has built resistance and fear in the younger people.”

Jon Loevy, a civil rights attorney, said the lack of accountability within the department contributes to a culture that condones the use of excessive force.

Loevy said the police review authority was established to serve as a watchdog, but it has been ineffective. “They need different personnel,” he said.

R. Thomas

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