My Sisters in Crime Central Virginia chapter visited the Richmond Police Training Academy recently and triedthe "Shoot/Don't Shoot" simulator. Growing up as a cop's kid paid off. Many thanks to Captain Harvey Powers for all the simulations, background information, and law enforcement lessons.
I know it was a simulator -- but my adrenaline was pumping and my knees were shaky when it was over. I had an epiphany while watching the simulations. All that response and nerves and shoot/don't shoot decisions happened in a span of less than 33 seconds. And police officers have to face that moment multiple times a day.
Here's what I learned from my two simulations and watching the others in my group. (My first simulation was a speeding car/traffic stop, and the car didn't have license plates. The driver pulled a gun. My second simulation was an active shooter in a middle school.)
- The ability to diffuse a situation with verbal skills is a key skill set for law enforcement. And it may be difficult to find folks with those skills in the texting generation.
- You have to be in relatively close proximity for pepper spray to be effective (about ten feet). There can easily be blow back, and you don't want to spray it in an inhabited area. Every Richmond PD cadet gets sprayed with pepper gas in training. And it takes about an average of 30 minutes to wear off.
- Pepper spray works on animals. It is basically odorless. It has less of an impact of people who eat really spicy food regularly.
- A taser (is not a phaser), and it has two sets of charges. It shoots two parallel lines that have what looks like flattened fishhooks on the end. When the trigger is pulled, a red laser dot appears, and it takes about five seconds to discharge.
- Lethal force is used to protect the lives of others and the officer.
- Real police do not fire warning shots in the air (bullets come back down), shoot guns out of the bad guys' hands, or shoot out tires.
- Officers are trained to aim for center mass (not kneecaps).
- Police officers are trained to Ask, Tell, and Make when they give commands.
- "Cop" comes from Conservator of the Peace.
- Be smart. Have and use your verbal skills to diffuse tense situations before they escalate.
- Know the fear and overcome it.
I think everyone needs to experience the "Shoot/Don't Shoot" simulator at least once. It gave me a new perspective on what police officers have to deal with every day. Growing up, I knew my dad faced danger, but I didn't realize how often a call can turn dangerous.