Las Vegas Police Training Changes Helped Reduce Officer Shootings


Las Vegas, the first U.S. police department to complete a “collaborative” Justice Department review, rewrote its use-of-force rules and ramped up training to de-escalate tense encounters. Shootings by officers, which peaked at 25 in 2010, declined to 13 in 2013 and 16 last year, reports the Associated Press. Through mid-June, officers shot three people, killing one. Even critics credit the decrease at least partly to new training. Shootings by police led Ohio officials, dismayed that the state requires just four hours of annual police training, to recommend a ten-fold increase. A Missouri panel recommended training encouraging police to increase distance between themselves and suspects. In Las Vegas, Prof. William Sousa of the University of Nevada Las Vegas said, “I think what has happened is the culture has changed now, as a result of the training and as a result of the policy, that you have officers who are … essentially avoiding situations where they have to make that split-second decision.”

A 2008 survey of more than 300 departments found one-third limited deadly-force training to requalifying in shooting skills, without focusing on judgment or tactics. More than three-fourths did not share findings from police shooting investigations with trainers. That raises serious “concerns about how prepared many police officers are” for encounters where they might use deadly force, concluded survey author Gregory Morrison, a professor of criminal justice at Ball State University. More departments have embraced “reality-based training,” using computer simulations or live scenarios. But there’s little research on what works, Morrison said.

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