What Police Who Fire Their Guns Have In Common

The Pew Research Center looked into the characteristics of police officers who fire their weapons on the job.
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 Pew researchers looked at the characteristics of police officers who fired their guns on duty.

GBI agents investigate an average of two serious officer-use-of-force cases a week in Georgia. Most of those are shootings.  This week, analysts at the Pew Research Center have looked into some of the characteristics of police officers who fire their weapons on the job.

The data is pulled from a survey of nearly 8,000 police officers across the country. And, to be clear, not all officers who fired their guns shot someone.

Rich Morin with Pew Research said they found only a quarter of police ever fire their service weapons on the job. That’s far less than the public tends to believe, according to the data.

They found men and military veterans were also more likely to have fired their guns.

Pew researchers also found police who’ve fired their weapons are more likely to believe the country has already made the changes necessary to ensure racial equality than their peers who have not discharged weapons. They also tend to believe that some people can only be dealt with in harsh, physical ways.

“Taken together you get a measure of social conservatism,” said Morin, who emphasized that the characteristics they found aren’t what cause officers to fire their guns.

Atlanta Police Sergeant Warren Pickard has fired his weapon twice over a decades long career.

He said he believes it’s fear alone that defines why officers fire their guns. And Pickard said while more data that could shape police training is always welcome, for the most part, these aren’t experiences he and his colleagues talk to each other about. He’s not sure about forcing these discussions on officers.

“I don’t want to relive these moments. I learned from them. I think I’m a better officer and trainer because I had that experience, but it’s not an experience I want to talk about,” said Pickard.

He said he’s seen improvements in role-play training make a major difference in how officers deal with potentially dangerous situations.

Meanwhile, the family of a man shot and killed by an APD officer two weeks ago is demanding more details on the incident, including the name of officer, which the GBI has yet to release.

Police say two plainclothes officers smelled marijuana coming DeAundre Phillips’ car as they approached it on Jan. 26. They say Phillips tried to drive away as they were speaking to him. One of the officers jumped into the passenger side of the vehicle as Phillips allegedly tried to flee. That officer then shot and killed him.

A protest is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

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