Last month, Gwinnett County Police officers shot and killed a Lawrenceville man who was reportedly suicidal. This issue is also a sensitive one for the Loganville Police Department and Walton County Sheriff's Office that have had. In all instances, it is reported that the suspect was shot dead by members of law enforcement after attempts to defuse the situation failed. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating as is standard procedure in any fatal police shooting.
On Friday, GCPD officers showed members of the media why that decision is never an easy one to make.
Experts from GCPD walked journalists through several scenarios involving use of force. From TASERs to when to decide to pull the trigger and possibly take someone's life.
The afternoon began with a lecture on defensive tactics and use of force. Instructor Cpl. Larry Stone answered the question many residents ask after an officer shoots a suspect. Why couldn't the officer shoot the gun out of the suspect's hand or shoot them in the leg? "This is not Hollywood," said Stone. He then went on to explain how difficult it is to target those areas and says it does not necessarily end the dangerous situation. The suspect may still be able to get up and get the weapon and kill an officer or an innocent bystander.
Stone also explained tasers to the journalists. "TASERs equalize the field," he said. A smaller, female officer is able to better handle a situation against a 6'4" football player Stone gave as an example.
The instructor assured journalist that although tasers are painful, they are safe. The average output of a TASER is just a third of a Christmas tree bulb.
GCPD then demonstrated the TASER on one of their newest officers, 26 year old Alexander Donisa, who had just graduated from the police academy the night before the demonstration.
The TASER gun fired two darts in to Donisa's back. The device then delivered 3.6 milliamps of electricity into the officer's back. Donisa was clearly in pain as the electricity moved through his body, however, as soon as the charge stopped, he was able to function normally and did push-ups to prove it.
Next, journalists were invited to partake in a video simulation of scenarios officers may face. Each of the journalists struggled with their scenarios as we were faced with difficult decisions. In my scenario, I accidentally shot and killed a hostage who was being held by the neck by a robber of a convenience store. A reporter from 11Alive was faced with a situation where an 11 year old girl got out of a truck armed with a rifle as she tried to defend her father who had been pulled over by the police. During the simulation, the reporter was unsure of what to do. While he was deciding, the girl shot and killed another officer.
Our instructors told us those are just some of the difficult decisions officers have to make. One even said the reporter should have shot the little girl because his life and the life of the other officer were at risk.
Gwinnett County offers a chance for people to take part in some of the training police officers go through as well through their Citizens Police Academy.
Loganville Patch Editor Sharon Swanepoel contributed to this story.