Police Chief Louis Dekmar, who has run the LaGrange, Ga., Police Department for 26 years, is training his officers to shoot for the legs, pelvis or abdomen in situations where they think it could stop a deadly threat without killing the source of that threat, reports the Washington Post. Dekmar, a former president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, believes the practice could make a difference in the more than 200 fatal police shootings nationwide every year that involve individuals armed with something other than a gun.
Inspired by international policing tactics that allow police to shoot at nonvital areas in certain circumstances, the program includes classroom instruction, videos of police shootings, various scenarios and firearms testing at a gun range. To pass, officers had to accurately place 80 percent of 20 shots to various body parts on color-coded silhouettes. Critics argue that cops are usually bad shots in stressful situations, with various studies placing their hit rates between 20 to 50 percent, and that “shoot to incapacitate” adds even more complexity to situations in which officers must react quickly to protect their own lives. The program relies on over 12 months of research conducted by Dekmar and his training sergeant, Joshua Clower, which found that roughly a quarter of the roughly 1,000 people fatally shot each year had held knives, screwdrivers or other items that might have given officers more time to maneuver. Those are the instances the training seeks to address.