SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Officer-involved deaths have decreased over the last couple of years, according to new data released by the Department of Justice monitoring use-of-force in California.
The numbers show in 2018, two people died as a result of deadly police force in Santa Barbara County. That's fewer than 2017, where three deaths were reported, and 2016, where another three people died at the hands of law enforcement in the county.
Santa Maria PD was involved in one of the 2018 fatal incidents.
"Our priority is to stop the threat," said Lt. Jesse Silva of Santa Maria Police. "Sometimes the only way to neutralize a threat is by lethal force."
However, Silva said that doesn't mean officers won't exhaust other methods to de-escalate situations.
"No matter what that may take –whether it be verbal instructions, from taser, to bean bag shotguns, to 40mm sponge round munitions, to chemical agents, whether it be pepper spray, things of that nature."
Sometimes, the department resorts to its K-9 unit. Santa Maria PD has two dogs.
"But we're also really careful on how we deploy the K-9's because they are inherently dangerous as well, they bite people," said Silva.
Officers train at the shooting-range on a quarterly basis, as well.
"They qualify on whether it'd be their side arm, which is their handgun, any rifle that may be issued to them, as well as the bean bag shotgun, as well as a regular A-70 patrol shotgun."
The Department of Justice began tracking use-of-force incidents in California in 2016.