All 75 commissioned deputies recently trained with Remington-870 shotguns that were modified with an orange stock to fire less-lethal bean bag rounds, Sheriff
Gibson, who took office in 2017, said the department constantly trains to better prepare and equip deputies on exercising good judgement, problem solving and decision making.
Increasing the amount of time and distance in risky situations can help save lives, he said.
Elroy said the deputies are using 12-gauge bean bag rounds, and each orange stock cost
Less-lethal shotgun training lasts a day, compared to two days for handgun training, Gibson said. The new guns were issued to deputies in early November, and 45 shotguns have been modified.
Elroy, who has 30 years of experience, said the less-lethal firearm training was well received by deputies. The training included human-shaped targets with red, yellow and green zones shown, indicating which areas deputies should hit and avoid.
Green zones are the safest to strike, yellow zones require caution and red zones shouldn't be hit unless-lethal force is necessary, Elroy said. Also, when less-lethal rounds are fired, deputies were trained to announce the firing, to signify to backup officers to stand down and avoid miscommunication at the scene.
Gibson said there are no plans to modify more shotguns because not all deputies work in areas that require long-distance rounds, such as deputies who are posted at the courthouse and jail transport. However, a number of less-lethal shotguns are available in secure areas in those facilities for use if necessary.
Gibson said less-lethal force options are used by a variety of law enforcement agencies to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations and to allow extra space and time for deputies to exercise good judgment.
Elroy said at least 300 agencies nationwide use less-lethal firearms.
Citing the study "Impact Munitions Data Base of Use and Effects" written by
From his own experience and training, Elroy said he noticed deficiencies and began taking training classes. He learned that most officers and deputies rely on their training, especially when they are under stress. If instructors reinforce the basics, officers and deputies will revert to that training during critical times.
He believes the most high-profile mistakes made nationally have been related to incorrect training. Elroy said all training should be appropriate, timely and continuous.
Elroy said less-lethal force is used in cases involving people with weapons other than firearms who are not attacking officers, cases involving mental health issues, suspects on drugs and combative individuals who are causing a public safety issue requiring intervention.
Gibson said deputies still will have sidearms and access to traditional rifles in cases warranting potential lethal action. Also, deputies carrying less-lethal weapons are backed up by deputies carrying lethal force.
"We try to de-escalate to a peaceful resolution," Gibson said.
With less-lethal options on the table, there is a greater probability no one will suffer injuries, Gibson said.
Previously, Gibson said deputies had to use their own service handguns, but for the first time in the department's history, deputies are issued all of the equipment they may need in the field. This was done through proper budgeting and using funds responsibly, he said.
He said the department always tries to be innovative and likes to be a leader on the edge of change in law enforcement practices. Having less-lethal shotguns will help deputies be more strategic.
Gibson said deputies train every year, and the next training will be in the spring on judgment, decision making and problem solving.
Jamie BerryFollow me @[email protected]
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