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'Train them to keep the public safe': Central Georgia training centers talk Taser, gun safety education

Making sure officers know the difference between a Taser and a firearm in high-stress situations is extremely important

MACON, Ga. — The big question many have been asking following the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright is, "How could you confuse a gun and a Taser?"

Training centers in Central Georgia say they train their officers to make sure there is no confusion when it comes to operating the two weapons. 

"Since 1999, there have been roughly 15 cases nationwide where an officer has fired a firearm instead of a Taser with the intent of firing a Taser," said Chadd Wilson, division director at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. 

He says making sure officers know the difference between a Taser and a firearm in high-stress situations is extremely important. 

"What we try to do here at the training center is incorporate Taser training into scenario-based training," Wilson said, meaning officers will not just shoot the Taser at a stationary target, they will aim at moving targets, and put officers in real-life situations.

"By doing that, and repetitively doing that and building some muscle memory, that's how we hope to mitigate this," Wilson said.

During training, Wilson says instructors make sure they emphasize how important placement is in hopes that officers don't reach for the wrong weapon.

"If I'm right-handed and I have my primary firearm on my right side, the Taser will be carried on my left side in a cross-draw method," he said.

"The cross-draw is the biggest thing because crossing over my body is uncomfortable, but I know to go for my Taser, I have to go to the opposite side than my gun would be," Captain David Freeland said.

Captain David Freeland with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office training division says this method is taught to avoid confusion and reaching for the wrong weapon.

Freeland says another way officers can tell the difference is by the grip on the Taser versus the gun, the laser that the Taser projects when you get ready to use it, and the safety switch that Tasers require you to flip before you operate it.

"We want to try to solve any incident or situation we go to without having to use a firearm," Freeland said.

He says it is ideal for officers to try and solve problems verbally, but sometimes, that is not possible.

Wilson says making sure that making sure officers don't reach for the wrong weapon when pulling out the Taser becomes the next option is a priority.

"Everything comes back to training. When we train officers to be safe, we not only want them to be safe, but we want to train them to keep the public safe," Wilson said.

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