Just this week, a Daytona Beach police officer shot and killed a man the department was tracking because he had multiple felony warrants, according to Police Chief Jakari Young.
Central Florida has seen its share of fatal police shootings.
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News 6 has spent the last year researching and reporting on these police shootings on our digital show Solutionaries.
Since 2015, law enforcement has shot and killed nearly 1,000 people each year in the United States, according to Washington Post data.
And a Georgia police chief is trying to reduce the number of fatal shootings by introducing a new training concept.
For decades, law enforcement officers across the country have learned to shoot the center mace, which is the biggest target on the body and the most likely to kill.
At the LaGrange Police Department, officers still train this way, but they also train to shoot to hurt when they can.
Chief Louis Dekmar has over 40 years of law enforcement experience and nearly 27 years as LaGrange’s police chief.
“The intent is that the officer be offered an option that will end the threat and preserve life,” Dekmar said. “And when you do that, you also build the trust and support of the people you serve.”
In 2004, while on a training delegation to Israel, Dekmar discovered that the Israeli police applied the same concept.
“My immediate reaction was that it will never work here,” Dekmar said.
Around 2018, Dekmar began research and found that of the approximately 1,000 fatal police shootings in the United States each year, approximately one-third of the subjects involved were armed with something other than a firearm, according to the statistics from the Washington Post, which has been tracking police shootings nationwide since 2015.
Dekmar spoke to medics and found that while shooting at the center of mass is most likely to kill, it doesn’t necessarily immediately stop a threat, he said.
“We’ve seen a number of videos where people get shot multiple times but keep moving forward because they’re relying on blood loss or shock to stop that individual,” Dekmar told News. 6. “The mechanic of hitting the hip or the thigh or the abdomen will stop someone, sometimes faster than shooting them.
We pitched the concept to Orange County Sheriff John Mina and asked if it was something he would consider for his deputies.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “No, I’m not going to ask our deputies to run even more risks.”
In addition to regular firearms training, Dekmar officers undergo three hours of classroom training, de-escalation training, regular firearms training, and quarterly scenario-based training.
Shortly after the training, an officer had a real-life situation that mirrored his script training: a confrontation between him and a man with a machete.
The incident was captured on the officer’s body camera.
“Drop the machete. You’re going to get shot,” the officer can be heard telling the man in the video.
When the man turns to the officer with the machete, the officer fires his taser first.
When the suspect continues to walk towards the officer, the officer shoots him below central mass in the stomach.
The officer was not injured and the suspect survived.
“Asking a law enforcement officer to take all this risk of aiming for one end, (which) is harder to hit than the center mass, is unreasonable in my view,” Mina said.
Dekmar said that’s why his suggested method is only an option.
“We train it like we train all the other options and the officers judge, based on time and distance, what they think is the best course of action,” Dekmar said.
He added that the man with the machete was in the hospital for six days and then taken to the county jail, which is the whole point of shooting to incapacitate – saving lives.
News 6 asked other Central Florida agencies what they thought of the policy.
The Belle Isle Police Department chief said it would be a big transition.
“It would be a shift in police practices and training that has been in place for decades,” Houston said.
Volusia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Andrew Gant said the team was aware of the practice.
“We’re aware of alternative philosophies like the one you’re talking about, but our agency doesn’t embrace it,” Gant wrote in an email.
He added that the way to reduce lethal force is through de-escalation training.
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