COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - It seems like all too often we hear national headlines of officers quick to exert use of force, sometimes needed but, as a jury ruled most recently in George Floyd’s case, it can be the wrong decision and turn deadly - leading to distrust for law enforcement as a whole.
Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon tells WTVM News Leader 9, a Supreme Court ruling from three decades ago in Graham versus Connor sets the tone for how officers apply use of force. But based on an ever-changing nation, police recruits are taught to not use it unless a suspect resists arrest.
“It is never our intention to seek to injure an individual we always seek to be able to bring the situation under control and be able to get the person to comply with the commands of the officer has communicated,” Chief Blackmon said.
A Washington Post online database counts the number of people killed by on-duty police. Since 2015 in the United States around 1,000 each year. The Columbus Police Department is working to tech all officers-in-training with ways to help avoid a deadly encounter if at all possible.
“We have a firearms training simulator that we work with and it is not just for firearms… it has OC, it has a tazer… different options that we can use,” Lt. Tim Wynn Columbus Police Training Director said.
Lt. Wynn says in the ‘Use of Force’ class, officers are exposed to artificial simulations before field training, where they are taught which best practice to apply based on a situation.
”Everything we do has to be reasonable when it comes to use of force,” said Lt. Wynn.
The training academy is an 11-week course that doesn’t only cover ‘Use of Force’, but also ‘Search and Seizure’, ‘Driving’ and ‘Crisis Intervention’ training, to name a few.
And because of national cases such as with George Floyd’s deadly encounter with a Minneapolis police office, Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon says it’s important up-and-coming officers learn from events like that too.
“Our training division trains officers not only by the Graham versus Connor case law but in addition to that based on what we see take place around our country,” he said
As mentioned before, Use of Force ultimately is to try to get someone to comply with law enforcement. But since officers often have to make split-second decisions on scene, at the police academy they train officers to establish three P’s before pulling the trigger: possesses a deadly weapon, poses an immediate threat and probable cause.