I read a story last week about an East Dublin, Georgia police officer who shot and killed a man on a traffic stop. Without even touching the circumstances of the shooting, there was a serious training issue in the 2010 case. The officer had not been through state-mandated use of force training in the prior year, and because of that did not have the legal power of arrest under Georgia law.
How do you think that will play out in the pending civil suit filed by the family of the decedent?
The officer in question was not the only one on the force who missed state mandated training. In fact, of the eight man East Dublin Police Department, more than half did not attend the mandatory retraining and had lost their powers of arrest. One of the people who failed to attend training and should not have the power of arrest? Police Chief Bill Luecke.
If you be concerned about rigors of that use of force training, don’t be: it is only one hour per year. Mandatory firearms training accounts for one hour per year also, bringing the total to two hours per year.
Having started my law enforcement career in Georgia, I am pretty familiar with the training standards in the Peach State. They aren’t terribly impressive. Compared to other states, Georgia is ahead of some in the number of hours at the academy and such, but that doesn’t mean they are squared away.
When I first graduated the academy, I was “certified for life” on my duty pistol, as Georgia did not have any requirements for requalification. Thankfully, that changed. I still wonder how many cops working 20+ years only shot their service guns at the academy.
But, I figured that the East Dublin officer was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, it is not. According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, “dozens” of Atlanta police officers have not been through mandatory retraining, which has resulted in their loss of arrest powers. According to the article, more than 50 officers have been discovered to have lost their powers of arrest. That number is likely to go higher, as there are still 600 files to review, or about 1/3 of the force.
How many criminal investigations do those officers represent? How many use of force cases? Arrests?
Lest you think I am picking on Georgia, let me present the Honolulu Harbor Police Department. According to KITV-4 News, the state confiscated all of the weapons and vehicles used by the Harbor PD. Why? Among other reasons: the department lacked proper record keeping on firearms training, qualifications and other topics.
The harbor police still patrol, but without weapons. Should any law enforcement action be needed, they call the sheriff’s department and county police.
The shocking thing is all three of these stories were published in the same week. It really makes me wonder how many administrators are ignoring their responsibility to ensure the department is meeting minimum requirements, never mind being well trained.
This may sound a little silly to some folks, but I hope not. We in law enforcement owe the citizens of our jurisdiction the best service possible. That means our officer have to be well trained in all important areas of law enforcement. At the top of that list should be the use of force.
The use of force is an integral aspect of law enforcement. Officers who are well trained in the use of force (generally) and in the various weapon systems issued to them are unlikely to inappropriately use force, are more likely able to prevail in an armed encounter and are easy to defend against frivolous lawsuits.
Untrained officers are more likely to use an unreasonable amount of force (too much or too little for the circumstances), are more likely to be killed in a violent encounter and are hard to defend in frivolous lawsuits. If you do not document proper training, the well-trained officer is also hard to defend against nuisance lawsuits.
The citizens deserve better. Our officer deserve better.
When asked about the mandatory training requirements by a reporter, Chief Luecke said “Everything’s cool.” No Chief Luecke, everything is not cool.