FARMINGTON, N.M. (KRQE) – A national study on police shootings has come to New Mexico. The Farmington Police Department actually invited researchers to New Mexico to take a deeper look after they saw a concerning trend. They’re hoping this study can help them change policing.

Police Chief Steve Hebbe says they’ve had three officer-involved shootings just this year – one in which an officer was shot. It’s a lot for their department, and so they set out to find out how to turn the trend of escalating violence around. “We’re in the process of day-to-day operations, so I like the notion of bringing in partners from the academic world to kind of look through our data and see if they can help us drive policy or training better,” Hebbe says.

“Why are these things happening? If I can explain it to the public, the public usually is ‘OK, I understand that.’ But if I can’t explain it to the public, well then we need to be doing some training to make sure it isn’t happening anymore,” Hebbe says. That’s why his department teamed up with a research study with criminologists in Connecticut.

“With police-involved shootings, we’re looking at some of the causes of what happens when there may be an escalation of violence in a police-involved shooting. We’re looking at ways to better ascertain and analyze the officer’s side of things,” says Professor John DeCarlo from the University of New Haven. Along with DeCarlo, Eric Dlugolenski of Central Connecticut State University, and Dr. Dave Myers – also of the University of New Haven – are also on the research team.

DeCarlo says by looking at variables, like what happens when a shooting is about to take place and how an officer responds to the perception of a gun being drawn – along with how many hours an officer has been on the job and their tenure – they hope to come up with answers.

Chief Hebbe noticed when one officer fires, others on the scene quickly join in and more shots tend to be fired. They hope to reduce that through this research. “So the first step was, is this a national trend? And then the second step is, if it is, what kind of training is out there? And then the third step is, if there’s no training out there, then let’s develop some,” Hebbe says.

DeCarlo says Farmington will be among five police agencies in this nationwide study. However, he says it was unusual for a department to ask to be included. “I like us asking those kind [sic] of questions of ourselves and I think the public should be expecting that of us, you should be expecting that of me. And then we should be acting once we get, ‘hey I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s reach out and find somebody that can help us,'” Hebbe says.

The research has been underway for around nine months. They hope to conclude their analysis and publish their results in the next few months. Along with looking at data from actual police shootings, a big part of this research is putting officers through simulated scenarios to better measure their reactions.