Law enforcement officers have killed 1 black person per week this year, data shows

Local law enforcement training courses focus on de-escalation techniques

Its been almost four months since a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd. Despite protests nationwide, law enforcement officers in the U.S. have killed one black person per week so far this year, according to data from the Washington Post.

How are law enforcement agencies in Central Florida responding to the calls for reform? News 6 went behind the scenes of law enforcement training for answers.

At Valencia College is a 365 degree simulator designed to prepare officers for real life situations.

Of the 200 plus scenarios it offers, 65 percent are designed to teach officers not to fire their weapons, but instead de-escalate the situation, according to Captain Todd Gardiner with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

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“De-escalation can be communication, can be listening, employing empathy, creating distance to give yourself more time to make decisions,” Gardiner said.

Gardiner said the goal is to “absolutely” reduce the number of shootings.

And here’s why -- in 2015 the Washington Post started tracking fatal law enforcement shootings around the country, mainly because the data that was out there was flawed. The government tracks police shootings, but law enforcement agencies report it voluntarily. There is no requirement

From Jan. 1, 2015 until June 1, 2020, the Post documented 5,360 Americans were shot and killed by a law enforcement officer. Of those, 346 happened in Florida.

A deeper look at those shootings by gender, race and population, shows that for every 1 million Black males in this country, 64 were shot and killed by police. Compare that to 23 white males per million over the 5-year period.

“As a 26 year veteran in law enforcement, I can tell you that your goal is never to end the situation with use of force and certainly not with deadly use of force,” Gardiner said.

Right down the hall from the simulator at Valencia College, John Bostain with Command Presence is teaching a new course"De-escalation Strategies for Best Possible Outcomes."

“It’s a hot need right now and I want to have an honest conversation about what it is,” Bostain said.

The class is filled with law enforcement officers from across Central Florida.

De-escalation training is not new, but this particular course is.

Deputy Chief Vince Ogburn is taking the course and will then teach the techniques to officers at the Ocoee Police Department.

“We can use this tool to try to get the best possible outcome rather than somebody getting hurt whether its the individual or the officer,” Ogburn said.

“It’s alarming the number of shootings that are going on around the country,” Ogburn said.

Bostain says they created the course last December, months before a Minneapolis Police Officer put his knee on the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, killing him.

Bostain and Gardiner say since Floyd, the course is needed even more.

“De-escalation has really become part of the narrative across the country for good reason,” Gardiner said.

Command Presence is teaching the course at least eight or nine times around the country this year.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.