SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - In just two months, there have been four officer-involved shootings here on the coast. That may have some locals wondering just what types of situations require an officer to use deadly force.
Sgt. Emma Sturm has been training cadets in the academy since 2010. The cadets undergo 11 weeks of training, with a very important part of their curriculum being learning how and when to use deadly force.
"We try to instill with them, hey, we know you don't want to go out there and take somebody else's life. Unfortunately, if you have to…if imminent threat is there, we don't want them to hesitate," Sturm said.
The recent officer-involved shooting in Gulfport is a stark reminder of the importance of always being prepared. Earlier in his career, Chief Deputy Landi Phillips said he was in a similar situation and remembers it vividly.
"I remember thinking that I might have to use lethal force in this situation, and it was a terrifying situation," Phillips said. "You never know what you're going to roll up on as an officer on the street. Situations change quickly and turn dead quickly, which I'm sure is the case in all four of these instances."
Cadets go through a variety of training exercises, like learning how to properly do a pat-down during routine traffic stops. They also learn how to verbally command a suspect, but if that doesn't work, then the officers have to be prepared to take action.
"You want to always make sure you're one step above what the suspect is giving you. Therefore, you're using the correct use of force. You can't say, 'Oh, well. He has a knife so I'll try to strike him'," Sturm said.
The training officers say shooting a suspect is never the first choice of action, but protecting themselves and surrounding citizens is their first priority.
"You train for it all your career, hoping to never have to use it, but unfortunately at times it does occur," Phillips said.
Friday night's shooting in Gulfport involving two officers is currently under investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Biloxi Police Department.