Sheriff Department's academy gives look at how officers are trained

Published: Nov. 14, 2015 at 3:14 AM EST|Updated: Oct. 20, 2017 at 4:10 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - There have been 44 officer-involved shootings in South Carolina so far this year. With that statistic comes the question, when should police officers draw their weapons?

That is one question without a clear answer.

Annual weapons training is a major part of being a law enforcement officer. The small training academy, hosted by the Richland County Sheriff's Department, gives a small sample of the instruction that officers get on the kinds of actions they can take in an escalating situation.

According to instructors with RCSD, officers in training are taught to use the "one-plus-one" rule. That allows them to use a level of force one degree higher than the threat they're facing in order to control the situation.

An example of this rule is an officer using a taser to control a subject if that person is throwing punches or attacking them physically.

RCSD says that the scale works all the way up to using a gun however, it is one option that has to be carefully considered in a short time.

"You try to use everything else before you ever get to that level. Sometimes you don't have that opportunity. Sometimes it's that split second when someone's trying to take your life or take someone else's life then you have to make that decision to use that weapon," Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said.

In their annual training, deputies are also coached on other ways to diffuse situations.That includes strategies that don't require using weapons at all.

In recent weeks there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the actions of Ben Fields, a former Richland County Sheriff's Deputy, who was fired after video surfaced of him forcibly arresting a student at Spring Valley High School.

Instructors at the department say what stuck out to them was when he threw the student across the room. They say that is not what deputies are trained to do.

Instructors say officers are taught pressure point techniques that can help if a person will not cooperate during an arrest.

"When you try to control a person and you throw them, you just lost control of them, that's the last thing that you want to do and so if I want to control you I'm going to grab a hold of you and maintain control of you," Sheriff Lott said. "That way I can subdue you, apprehend you, handcuff you, but if I throw you I've just lost control of you now."