Who is LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar?

LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar took the helm of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 2017. Dekmar called on law enforcement officials to acknowledge past wrongs to promote community trust. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

caption arrowCaption
LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar took the helm of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 2017. Dekmar called on law enforcement officials to acknowledge past wrongs to promote community trust. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

The chief of police in LaGrange, Louis Dekmar, is getting attention for training law enforcement officers with an option to shoot to wound, but not kill, in some situations where deadly force is necessary.

The training program, profiled by the AJC, is the first of its kind in Georgia and could be a first in the nation.

The training runs counter to policies in most law enforcement agencies, the AJC reported. The reason officers have been instructed to aim for the upper torso and head area is that it generally provides the largest target and the fastest way to stop a person who poses a danger to the officers or the public.

Dekmar has been in law enforcement more than four decades and has been police chief since 1995 in LaGrange, located about 67 miles southwest of Atlanta near the Alabama border and I-85.

Dekmar, who is white, drew national attention in 2017, when he apologized for his agency’s role in a 1940 lynching outside LaGrange.

caption arrowCaption
LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar apologizes for the 1940 lynching of Austin Callaway at Warren Temple United Methodist Church Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. “It should never have happened,” the chief said. BRAD SCHRADE / BSCHRADE@AJC.COM

LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar apologizes for the 1940 lynching of Austin Callaway at Warren Temple United Methodist Church Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. “It should never have happened,” the chief said. BRAD SCHRADE / BSCHRADE@AJC.COM

caption arrowCaption
LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar apologizes for the 1940 lynching of Austin Callaway at Warren Temple United Methodist Church Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. “It should never have happened,” the chief said. BRAD SCHRADE / BSCHRADE@AJC.COM

The apology, made during a ceremony of remembrance for the victim that included relatives and representatives of the NAACP, was believed to mark first time a police chief in the South had apologized for his department’s role in the legacy of lynching and racial violence, the AJC reported.

At the time of the apology, he said the lynching of Austin Callaway should have never happened and called police failures in America during the Jim Crow era the profession’s “darkest hour.”

ExploreAJC opinion article by Chief Dekmar: Criminal probes must seek truth

Dekmar, who is from Oregon, went to college in Wyoming and served as an officer in that state for the first decade of his career. He has offered training and talks to police and law enforcement officials in the United States and has been an adjunct professor. In 2014, he visited Norway, where he spoke about international law enforcement to the United Nations Police, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He also visited Israel for a training program with the Israel National Police.

He is a former police chief in Morrow, south of Atlanta, where he served for nearly four years. He is also a former president of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. In 2017 and 2018, he served as president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

His tenure at IACP was marked by a call for police leaders across the country to reconcile with the minority communities in their jurisdictions and a push to reform policies for dealing with the mentally ill.

Since last fall, Dekmar has served on the Council on Criminal Justice’s Task Force on Policing that has issued a series of reports in recent months, outlining recommended reforms to address challenges facing police during an era of unprecedented scrutiny and crisis facing law enforcement in America.

ExploreGa. chief urges police leaders to fight prejudice, reconcile wrongs