The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) has released research showing most law enforcement officers go through their entire career without ever firing their weapon.
The association released its report, titled “Police Response to Resistance: How Florida’s Sheriffs React to Violent Encounters,” last week. It examines the public perception in America that officers fire their weapons at least once in their career—or even multiple times a year—due to the way law enforcement officers are depicted on TV, through social media, and in the news.
“This research further debunks the idea that officers should be viewed negatively,” said Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, in the press release. “Although we understand there is always room for improvement, our deputies have the responsibility to protect individuals from injury. With the proper training and policies, they understand their duties as an officer and the ultimate results from judgments they must make in different situations.”
According to the FSA Research Institute release, the report aimed to inform the public about law enforcement’s response to resistance, along with relevant laws and training in control methods.
Outside of training, the research—which examined the years from 2015 to 2020—found most officers never fire their weapon. The report also revealed that officers chose not to shoot in 93 percent of violent situations in which they would have had legal and ethical cause to do so.
According to the most recent national report, out of the 61.5 million people who had contact with an officer in 2018, only 2.8 percent perceived the officer used force.
“Law enforcement is a difficult profession that routinely gets second guessed,” Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. wrote in an email to Mainstreet Daily News. “On a daily basis, we try to interact with our community and be as transparent as possible.”
The report comes almost 18 months after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, causing his death and sparking national protests and a since-stalled effort for policing reform. A jury found the officer, Derek Chauvin, guilty of murder in a verdict Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones said showed “no person is above the law.”
The FSA report covers how officers are trained for situations when individuals resist arrest and use violence, along with guidelines they receive from the U.S. Supreme Court and Florida law designed to protect citizens from unreasonable use of force. Officers receive this training during the academy pre-employment period and as a part of ongoing education requirements.
“The more the public understands what we do and why we do it, the stronger our relationship will become,” Watson said. “For us in law enforcement we will continue to strive to better understand the communities we serve. I have always said, you can’t have law enforcement without community and you can’t have community without law enforcement. Listening to our community and working together for common goals will make us and the community better.”