Since the beginning of 2016, hundreds of people have been killed in officer-involved shootings. Central Georgia is not excluded from those statistics.
Central Georgia has seen its own share of officer involved shootings recently. In October, there were two officer-involved shootings. They both happened on October 7th.
The one in Macon was on Colquitt Street, when Larry Daniel Matthews was shot and killed by an officer after police responded to a shoplifting call at a local Family Dollar. Earlier that same day in Forsyth, Richard Treadwell was shot on Johnstonville Road after deputies say he threatened them with a weapon. Treadwell was not killed, but both local shootings have raised questions about the type of training officers here receive.
A cadet's classroom in Forsyth is an active environment and everyone participates in Academy Manager Tim Melton's class.
"The hands are the healers. The hands are the windows to the soul. This tells a lot about the person when they're talking,” says Melton.
He even role-plays to teach the cadets, sometimes as an armed suspect or as someone with a mental illness. Melton says every circumstance an officer is faced with is unique, but he says the first step is to attempt to get the situation under control.
"We'll try out de-escalation techniques. We'll try to communicate with them and we'll create some distance. We'll use open gestures. All the things we try to do in order to try to create a dialogue with a person, but if the person's an active threat to someone else or to the officer, then force is justified,” explains Melton.
Captain David Freeland, at the Bibb County Sheriff's Training Academy, has been in law enforcement for 14 years. He says officers are trained to hit their intended target when they feel someone's life is in danger.
"What you see on TV about them getting shot in the leg or the arm, that's not what we train here. We own everything we shoot, so we have to be careful on what we shoot because if we miss the potential target, we own that round that might go past them, and we don't want to endanger anybody else,”
The cadet's class enforces using other options first before pulling a trigger.
"If we can use our words, if we can use our body language to de-escalate this person than we'll do that but time doesn't offer that. Somebody's in jeopardy we have to be able to use the force that the law says we can, justify it, and just do the right things,” says Melton.
By doing the right thing, it could quite possibly be the difference between life and death.
The class of cadets in Forsyth will be graduating on December 15th. According to data compiled by the Washington Post, in 2016 785 people have been fatally shot by police. That is significantly lower than the 991 people who were killed in 2015.
The Macon Police Training Academy says every time a firearm is discharged by an officer an investigation is opened. They say even after officers leave the academy, they undergo suspect training.