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What happens after a deputy-involved shooting

Posted at 10:12 PM, Oct 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-20 01:12:07-04

When a Pima County Sheriff's Deputy has to discharge their weapon, two things will happen afterwards: the deputy will be placed on paid administrative leave for 72 hours, and an internal investigation of the incident will begin. 

"The process is long and it's drawn out, and that's on purpose because we want to make sure we get it right," PCSD Deputy Cody Gress said.

However, it happens far less than many Americans think, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center. That study shows:

  • About 30% of American adults believe police officers fire their weapons a few times a day,
  • About 83% of American adults believe police officers fire their weapon at least one time over the course of their careers,
  • 27% of officers say they've fired their weapon once during their careers

Deputy Gress explains it's common misconception that law enforcement officers fire their weapons frequently.

"That's the last ditch effort," he said. "That's the worst case scenario for a lot of us, the vast majority of us in fact."

Recently, there have been two deputy-involved shootings.

"For us, this has been quite a two week span," Gress said.

Earlier this week, there was a deputy-involved shooting in Picture Rocks. About two weeks ago, there was another PCSD deputy-involved shooting on Aviation Highway after a car chase.

Gress explained when there is a deputy-involved shooting, the department treats the scene as a crime scene -- just as it would if it were a criminal shooting or homicide investigation. On scene, they may interview witnesses and collect evidence to help with the investigation. From there, they take their findings to the County Attorney's office.

"They review everything," Gress said. "They take their time to do everything, and they're able to give us a decision whether it was a good shoot, or if it was a bad shoot."

After that ruling, usually about three months after the incident, a "Shooting Review Board" will review what happened and help the department move forward from there.

"That's really to look and focus on those internal issues that may have come up during the incident so that we can focus as a department on providing better training, if possible," Gress said.

When it comes to the reason why the deputies are placed on administrative leave, Gress explained these are "high stress, traumatic," experiences, and it wouldn't be good for the deputy or the public to just put that deputy back on the streets right away.