US police fire more bullets in a month than Germans use in a year

US police officer with shotgun

German police used 85 bullets in 2011, according to a report. LA police fired 90 in one incident last month

LAST UPDATED AT 11:41 ON Mon 14 May 2012

GERMAN POLICE fired just 85 bullets in the course of duty across the whole of 2011, according to astonishing figures reported in the newspaper Der Spiegel.

Of those rounds used, 49 were not even discharged at a suspect, being fired as warning shots. Of the remaining 36, 15 resulted in injuries and six led to fatalities.

"Our police officers are not 'thugs in uniform'," observed Lorenz Caffier, the Christian Democrat leader of the state Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. "[The police] alone are the law and are committed to fulfilling the task that we as a society [entrust to] them, based on the rule of law."

While the figures omit the 9,000 shots fired at sick and dangerous animals, many commentators online have compared Germany's trigger-shy police officers with their counterparts in other countries.

British police come out of the comparison well. Last year only two people were shot dead by police in England and Wales, while the country's largest force, the Metropolitan Police, fired just six shots in the 2009-10 figures.

However, the figures for American police paint an altogether bleaker picture. While there are no nationwide figures compiled for firearms usage across the various police forces in the US, individual reports show single incidents when more bullets were fired than in the entire German year.

Russia Today (rather gleefully) reports how in Los Angeles in April 2012 LAPD officers unloaded more than 90 shots in an incident that led to the death of a 19-year-old man, and in the same month New York police fired at a suspected murderer 84 times.

But perhaps shootings aren’t the worst risk in the US. Amnesty International estimates that more than 500 people have been killed by police using supposedly 'non-lethal' Tasers since 2001. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.