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As Georgia Police Shootings Spike, A Look At Training Impact

Two years ago, in a time of high public scrutiny of police violence, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that Georgia's law enforcement officers would be subject to an extra four hours of training.
Two years ago, in a time of high public scrutiny of police violence, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that Georgia's law enforcement officers would be subject to an extra four hours of training.
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There have been 11 police shootings in 11 days. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, its agents are struggling to keep up with investigating that sudden spike.

While Georgia police have received more mandatory training in recent years, it’s not clear what impact that increase has had.

The recent streak of police shootings has happened all over the state — from Atlanta, to Columbus, all the way over to the Georgia coast.

“You have to look at each incident as a separate case. I don’t think you can group them all under one umbrella,” said spokesman John Hutcheson with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center.

Two years ago, in a time of high public scrutiny of police violence, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that Georgia’s law enforcement officers would be subject to an extra four hours of training. They’d have access to new online courses like “Use of Force and De-escalation Options for Gaining Compliance.”

The training center tells WABE about 15,000 officers have completed that course to date.

“I think it’s real early in the program to get the true and accurate numbers as to how many officers have been able to successfully defuse a situation by de-escalation before it went to the use of deadly force,” Hutcheson said.

Maki Haberfeld is a police training expert at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“We would have to wait at least five or six years before we could say something — with a certain level of confidence — that the things work or do not work,” Haberfeld said.

After all, news organizations only started trying to collect comprehensive data on police shootings in 2015. The FBI’s efforts are based on police agencies voluntarily sending in their numbers. Haberfeld said even if an ideal decades’ worth of data were available, there’s no indication American police trainers would take it into account.

She said the catalyst for changes in training in American law enforcement are a crisis of some kind.

“We do not engage in serious academic research like some police forces I’m familiar with, like, for example, in Norway,” Haberfeld said.

Norway, she added, with its entire floor of police university researchers who work on things like the use of force best practices, has vastly more centralized law enforcement institutions than the United States.

Here, nearly 50 separate police standards commissions and a handful of national organizations make separate attempts at setting guidelines for police training, according to Haberfeld.

The GBI says there have been 34 police shootings in the state so far in 2018. There were 88 the year before, and the bureau says Georgia is on track to reach that number again. Nationally, too, there is little change in these statistics.