Gaps flagged in Ga. use-of-force training

David Simpson
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A consultant says deadly force training by DeKalb County police "is lacking in some very critical areas" about when to use force, but Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones said Friday there is no indication those shortcomings figured in a recent surge of fatal police shootings.

Jones emphasized that a review conducted by the consulting firm of former Atlanta and New York police boss Lee Brown found that DeKalb police use-of-force policies are in line with national standards. "I am very happy to report there are no smoking guns," Jones said at a news conference Friday.

Jones, who commissioned the report, said the county will "fine-tune" policies and training, but he does not expect the changes to necessarily reduce the number of police shootings, which have claimed the lives of 10 suspects this year.

"We want [use of force] to be absolutely the last resort," Jones said. But when a suspect threatens an officer or a civilian, he said, "I'm not going to have my officers ... afraid to execute their use-of-force policy because someone wants to say there are too many shootings."

Jones said interim police Chief Nick Marinelli would immediately begin work to implement training "suggestions and enhancements" recommended by the Houston-based Brown Group International.

The consultants acknowledged that they reviewed only written descriptions of the training and said DeKalb officers may have received training that was not documented. But the report said DeKalb's use-of-force training in recent years focused on shooting skills, not decision-making on using force.

The consultants reported "a noticeable absence of recent course offerings" on using communication skills and other methods to resolve confrontations without using force. The report said firearms instruction always should be accompanied by training on other options, so that even an officer in a situation where deadly force would be justified might sometimes avoid that option "because of his/her ability to de-escalate the situation."

Marinelli, who did not attend Jones' news conference, issued a statement later Friday pointing out that the consultants did not investigate any actual shootings. "The Brown Group International concluded that there was no indication that the recent incidents were a result of deficient policy or inadequate training," he said.

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