After a spate of fatal shootings in 2005, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department faced an onslaught of public scrutiny and criticism over its use of deadly force. Last year, there were no deputy-involved shootings, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Officials say the change is likely the result of a combination of factors, including arming nearly every deputy with a Taser and developing more training on all types of force. A lot of luck also helps, Undersheriff Bill Gore said. “You never know. A deputy could pull someone over tonight at 6 and unfortunately have to use lethal force,” Gore said. “The situation just hasn’t presented itself, fortunately.”
The last time the department went a year without a shooting was in 1996. The San Diego Police Department shot 11 suspects last year. Less-lethal weapons, such as beanbag guns and Tasers – which deliver an electric shock to incapacitate a suspect – have been used by the sheriff’s department for several years and have prevented numerous officer-involved shootings. The department began buying Tasers at the end of 2005, shortly after deputies fatally shot three Latino suspects within a five-day span. Today, nearly every deputy carries a Taser when on patrol. An additional 300 stun guns have been ordered as the department begins arming some deputies in the jails and courthouses. “I’m convinced there were probably situations that had we not had a Taser, (it) could have developed into a use of lethal force situation,” Gore said. Often the threat of a Taser will stop a suspect. “They may be intoxicated and angry, but they have a memory of how painful something like that can be. It’s psychological,” said sheriff’s Lt. Dave Moss, director of the San Diego Regional Law Enforcement Academy.