Officer deaths in GA

Lily Pruitt, Assistant News Editor

Georgia was ranked number 3 out of US states for killings of law enforcement in 2021, which was tied with Florida for the number 2 ranking. On September 2nd, an officer in Baldwin County was involved in a shooting, but thankfully he was not injured. On September 8th, two officers died in the line of fire while serving a police warrant in Cobb County. Police officer-involved shootings are becoming more frequent and more dangerous for law enforcement. 

Thankfully, GC police have not been victims of any fatal interactions with armed suspects, but that is not true for Baldwin County Police or the GBI. Just this month, the GBI has been investigating 9 officer-involved shootings. The local office for the GBI, as well as the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, works closely with the school when events like an armed suspect are on campus, or a potential threat is induced. Director of Public Safety for GC and Chief of Police, Brett Stanelle refers to all threats as the same. It could be anything from someone with a knife to someone with a firearm, but their priority is to stop the threat so that the healing process can begin. 

The numbers for officer-related shootings in GA have differed every year, just as it has in Milledgeville. There is no rhyme or reason as to how, when, or how often they occur. However, there are many different perspectives to on the number of law enforcement deaths and if they are to continue to rise in the future months. 

 “There is some truth to the ‘greatest predictor of future behavior is past behavior’ but it’s been my experience during my career that those numbers fluctuate,” said Brett Stanelle, GC Chief of Police.

“I do personally expect the number of law enforcement deaths to continue rising because of the risk incurred by officers responding to dangerous calls,” said a GBI intern. “Some risks officers face on a regular basis is unavoidable. I think with emphasis being placed on training for officers’ de-escalation techniques and abilities that the number of shootings has the potential to decrease. Training will produce more competent officers and over time can help restore public faith in law enforcement.”

Protocol all over the country differs when it comes to law enforcement being in dangerous situations with a person with a firearm. Situations such as the shooting at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, University of Oakland, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Stoneman Douglas High School (known as Sandy Hook) and so many more, have opened the eyes of law enforcement and what kind of measures they need to take to ensure the safety of students and themselves. Some have initiated different protocols such as double entry doors to schools, automated locked doors with the push of a single button, student drills, and officer training. Many are working towards these protocols as soon as possible. 

“As buildings are being renovated or as we see new constructions like the new science center, you’re seeing more security technology go into those buildings. Doors are more automated but depending on the nature of the building that may dictate what type of technology goes in there, even if you’re talking about access control,” Stanelle said.

The intern agreed that mandating training for officers to make them better equipped to handle dangerous situations could help lower the frequency of shootings. Training law enforcement could increase their knowledge of all situations, increase the depth of training they go into, and help with de-escalation techniques. Time is not on any officer’s side. They have to go directly to any threat as fast as they can and assess and stop the threat. 

Many officers in law enforcement have frequently been training for potential threats using web-based training, which serves the purpose it is intended for, but when officers have to respond to a threat of violence, Chief Stanelle would like to see more officers training their de-escalation skills through scenario-based training. Many officers must react in an instant when put in dangerous situations and putting them through real-life scenario-based trainings for these types of situations helps their levels of thinking and processing information faster, which in the long run would help them in a real-life situation. 

“Training is a huge part of being more efficient and effective,” said Stanelle. 

Overall, it is important to be prepared in any way possible for any potential situations that could end up being dangerous. GC police work alongside Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and the Milledgeville office of GBI to ensure that all students are safe on and off campus, and are on our side at every cost.