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ATLANTA (AP) _ The police department has suspended undercover vice operations aimed at prostitution after an officer shot and killed a suspected prostitute _ one of four fatal police shootings in the past three months.

Members of the 10-member vice squad will be temporarily reassigned while officers in marked cars perform their duties.

Police Chief Richard Pennington said he suspended the undercover vice operations ``out of concern for the safety of our officers and citizens.''

Atlanta police have shot 12 people this year, killing five. That is the largest number of police shootings since 1995.

Despite the increase, Pennington defended his officers' record.

``This department has a great reputation in terms of not being involved in excessive use of force,'' said Pennington, formerly police chief in New Orleans.

On Monday, an officer shot the suspected prostitute four times after she sprayed him with pepper gas and stabbed him in the face and arms when he tried to arrest her, police said. The officer was in stable condition at Grady Memorial Hospital.

On July 14, a plainclothes officer killed an 18-year-old, who police said was trying to run over the officer. Relatives and friends said the teen was fleeing because he felt threatened.

Two officers shot a man they said drove a car at them after a chase on July 2. And on May 26, an officer investigating a report that a man had stabbed his girlfriend shot the man during a scuffle.