Chief Lou Dekmar, head of the LaGrange, Georgia police department, has implemented a new shooting policy that has evoked passionate response in the police community. For the past several decades, police officers have been trained, in deadly force situations, to fire shots at the center mass (chest area) of the individual with the goal of “stopping the threat.” The language, to ‘stop the threat’, is a less harsh, but a more accurate description than the older advice, “shoot to kill.”

The belief has long been that the focus on the center mass not only provides the best option to stop a violent attack on the officer or a citizen, but also provides some protection for bystanders in the immediate area of the shooting. Police officers are responsible for every round discharged and targeting a small area (hand, arm, leg) increases the chance of a missed shot injuring or killing someone other than the targeted individual.

What Dekmar is now proposing, and has implemented in LaGrange, is a policy of targeting the pelvis area, lower abdomen, in hope of ‘stopping the threat’ by incapacitating the individual with less likelihood of the shooting ending in a fatality. Dekmar originally got the idea while attending a training program in Israel and learning about incapacitation shooting policies in other countries. Dekmar, together with his training staff, ultimately put together a 500 page training outline detailing the theory and implementation of the new policy.

To say Dekmar’s program has led to a firestorm of controversy is to understate it. A news story by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reprinted on the Police1 website, generated strong response from officers and trainers around the country and that article, along with comments, can be found here.

The LaGrange Policy and training have received support from some police leaders around the country. Chief Dekmar deserves congratulations for a thoughtful approach to the most serious issue in policing. Careful research as the implementation widens will be crucial to the future of the ‘shoot to incapacitate’ policy.