The Washington Post is praising a new policy in the LaGrange, Georgia Police Department that is forcing officers to “shoot to incapacitate” rather than aim for the center of mass when in an engagement.
This “shoot to incapacitate” policy was brought forward by LaGrange Police Department Chief Louis Dekmar. Academic immediately hailed the policy prior to it actually having any data to support it, these academics claim that the move alone merits further research. Other police departments in the area are calling this a disaster before it starts, these police leaders are calling in experts for a major conference and one director is promising to release a paper advising other departments to NOT follow Dekmar’s lead.
The idea behind “shoot to incapacitate” has been around for a while and many people(notable people who have never shot a gun in their lives, let alone get into a shootout) have been calling for this to become the new normal nationwide when it comes to the police. The idea recently took on new support when the police shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant after she lunged at another teen with a knife during a police standoff.
“Shoot to incapacitate” sure does sound nice, but so does everything originating in the land of make-believe. On the silver screen, we get to see the hero detective shoot the bad guy in the leg before booking him for whatever crime he may have committed. The issue is just that, this idea is a product of the silver screen.
It is almost impossible to think and react fast enough and be accurate enough to shoot to incapacitate someone. When your life is on the line and you only have fractions of seconds to decide what to do the training kicks in and that center mass shot is really the only way to go. In police shootouts the bad guy only tends to stop shooting when they are no longer breathing, sometimes those center mass shots aren’t even enough when a suspect is amped up on drugs like PCP.
Sadly, even if police were retrained to “shoot to incapacitate” they likely wouldn’t be able to do so. The center of mass shot is easy, a round through the shoulder or leg isn’t. This also fails to account for the fact that shooting someone in the leg or upper arms is extremely dangerous. The amount of arteries and veins in these areas of the body is something else, while a shot to the chest might destroy someone’s lung a shot through the thigh might tear open the femoral artery, opening this artery is almost a guaranteed death as anyone with this injury would bleed out in minutes.
The realities of Hollywood just can’t be obtained in real life. This policy will likely end in the deaths of several officers and when this new training doesn’t slow down the rate of officer-involved shootings that result in fatalities the same people praising this policy will be attacking it.