D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is disbanding the department's nationally-recognized unit that investigates cases in which officers fire their weapons.
The break-up of the Force Investigation Team unit -- created in 1999 after it was revealed that D.C. police officers shot and killed more people per resident than any other big city police force -- was first reported Tuesday by the Associated Press.
D.C. police say that the number of police-involved shootings had been cut dramatically since the 1990s, and the need for the unit is no longer necessary. Part of the unit will be folded into Internal Affairs Division, which will investigate officer-involved shootings.
In 1998, officers shot 32 people and killed 12, compared to last year, when officers shot 12 people, killing five.
"It should be noted that the Force Investigation Team consisted of 12 members who investigated five police shootings this year," said D.C. police spokeswoman Gwen Crump.
D.C. police involved shootings last year included a detective accused of killing his girlfriend and infant child, and an off-duty D.C. police officer who allegedly jumped on the hood of a vehicle and shot at transgender people inside.
In 2012, there have been five police-involved shootings, three fatal, police said.
Kristopher Baumann, head of the D.C. police union, opposes the break-up of FIT, saying the unit provided the public and police officers with the confidence that police shootings were investigated professionally and impartially. The loss of a professional investigation unit makes the District more vulnerable to inevitable lawsuits, he said.
"This is a loss to everyone and a huge step backwards for the city," Baumann said.
Crump did not know whether any of the investigations in the previous five years concluded that a shooting was unjustified.
The unit will be folded into the Internal Affairs Division as part of a reorganization to allow more flexibility in case load. Seven officers will remain with internal affairs, while five will be moved to patrol or school security duties.
The FIT unit was created in 1999 following a Washington Post investigation that from 1992 to 1997, District officers shot and killed 57 people, the most per capita in the United States.
The Associated Press and Staff writer Liz Farmer contributed to this report.