LaGrange, GA – The LaGrange Police Department has begun training its officers to “shoot to incapacitate” in response to activists’ calls for police reform.
The new policy being implemented by LaGrange Police Chief Louis Dekmar is the first of its kind in the United States, WGCL reported.
Chief Dekmar said that law enforcement officers have traditionally been taught to shoot for “center mass” – meaning chest, upper torso, and head, instead of shooting places that are less-likely to kill the suspect.
But the new “Shoot to Incapacitate” program that LaGrange police starting using in February calls for teaching officers to shoot below the torso, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“It’s a responsibility, in my opinion, of any police leader to look at options for their police officers so that a deadly force encounter doesn’t necessarily end in a deadly result,” Chief Dekmar explained.
The course teaches officers that in some situations that would traditionally call for deadly force, they have the option to shoot for a suspect’s arms, pelvic region, and legs instead.
The concept behind the program is that shooting these other areas “could stop the threat while increasing the chance that the wounds will not be fatal,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Some firearms experts have said the “shoot to incapacitate” protocol isn’t just additional training to give officers more options and it requires a lot of work by police departments before implementation.
“It’s like another level of force,” retired Metro Transit Police Captain William Malone told The Police Tribune. “It’s inserting another level of force in between less-lethal and lethal force – it could be lethal force, or the guy could keep coming for you. You just won’t know til it happens and then it may be too late.”
Malone, who taught firearms for 20 years and served as commander of his department’s Special Response Team (SRT), said the added component of having to decide where to try to shoot the suspect so as not to possibly not kill them could delay some officers long enough to get them or other people killed.
“The chance that something ‘could’ stop an armed suspect isn’t enough,” he told The Police Tribune. “Just because you’re shot and fall down, that doesn’t mean you’re 100 percent incapacitated.”
“Plenty of times they go down and continue shooting, or they don’t go down at all and lunge at you or whoever they were going after because you shot them and now they’re even more enraged,” Malone said.
He said that a lot of things that sound good in the context of an activists’ police reform agenda aren’t practical for keeping officers safe.
The former firearms instructor pointed out that there’s no guarantee that a handgun is going to stop anybody immediately anyway.
“It’s already a crapshoot,” he said.
“There are only two ways guaranteed to stop a threat by shooting them – that’s to hit them in the central nervous system – the brain or spinal cord – or make them bleed enough and cause their blood pressure drop quickly so they lose consciousness,” Malone told The Police Tribune. “You’re not going to achieve that by telling officers to shoot for an arm or a leg.”
Chief Dekmar said he got the idea 17 years ago from a police exchange program with Israel, where he said officers are trained to shoot to only incapacitate as much as possible, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
He introduced the concept to his firearms trainers in 2019 and had them develop their own program since nothing like it existed in the United States.
This is not the first time Chief Dekmar, who served as president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in 2017 and 2018, has made waves and been accused of caving to the mob, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
He was one of the first police chief in the South to publicly apologize for his agency’s role in the lynching of a black man more than 70 years earlier.