Police, and the use of deadly force - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Police, and the use of deadly force

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

Tifton, GA (WALB) –  In the last three weeks, two southwest Georgia police officers used deadly force. The GBI is still investigating both cases.

In Albany Sarah Wiggins was shot and killed when she fired at police. Last week, Chad Pierce was shot and killed after leading police on a 20 mile chase from Edison to Arlington.

An officer typically has fewer than 10 seconds to evaluate a scenario and react. What I found out is deadly force is a last resort and sometimes unavoidable.

In a training scenario, an officer is called to a home to deal with a domestic situation where a woman has already threatened suicide. On average an officer has about three seconds to make a life or death situation.

From day one they're taught the law, it's application, and drilled again and again so they rely on instincts.  "They've got to respond in an appropriate way, and you respond appropriately when you do things over, and over, and over again you train enough that it's instinctively," said Marty Smith of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center.

At the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, officers are put through the paces they're taught it's not a matter of right or wrong, but what's reasonable. " The supreme court justice said police officers are forced to make decisions in tense, rapidly evolving, uncertain circumstances and what we've got to be able to determine here is was he based on those facts at that time, was he reasonable in what he did," said Smith.

Dougherty Police Chief Don Cheek who also teaches how to deal with deadly force says state standards require officers to renew their skills every year including different situations like night fire scenarios.

"The lighting conditions, the scenarios change at night and it's a real eye opener when you're having to run an obstacle course and engage target with almost no light available," said Cheek.

In Dougherty County the police are going to Tasers and other less deadly weapons to aid them when suspects won't comply. "We're about to put Tasers on the street, we're finalizing the training for that within the next month, it is a less than lethal response."

It's stressed at the academy as well, but officers say it's essential that when an officer give you command, you listen and comply.

At the Georgia Public Safety Training Center officers are put through 11 weeks of intense training then sent back to their individual departments where more training occurs.

Not everyone passes the academy, in fact 30% of the class doesn't make it to graduation.  Sarah Riggins case will be taken before the grand jury, the GBI is still waiting on autopsy results and continuing interviews in Chad Pierce's case.


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