where the muzzle was pointed and where every shot went. If it didn't hit the target, where did it go?"

There are hundreds of scenarios for honing officers' decision-making skills.

"It might be an off-duty situation where you're in a mall and a robber runs in and says, 'Show me your hands,' and the officer has to do something, either verbally or a straight engagement," Tinti said. "The guy might have just shot and you don't have time to say drop the gun. You have to engage to save the life of another."

Sometimes, trainees are required to go outside and exercise, then come back inside and train on FATS with an elevated heartbeat to simulate a pressure situation. Going over hundreds of simulated scenarios gives the officer some knowledge and experience to fall back on during a crisis, when a split-second decision must be made.

"Can you shoot a person holding a knife?" Tinti asked. "Here's what I tell students: 'yes and no.' If they're 10 feet away and they say, 'I'm gonna kill you,' and make a motion toward you, the officer will have to engage. Same person, same knife, but he's a football field away. Are you justified in shooting that person? No."

Citizen Training

Ulster County opened a citizens' police academy in May and will use the simulator to show the public just what kind of mayhem officers might face and what law enforcement's options might be. Tinti said most of the interaction between the public and police is negative, and the academy will try to show the public how difficult police work is.

"We're promoting a more detailed interaction between law enforcement and the community, teaching things like why an officer shoots when he does," Tinti said. "Why do cops have to come up to the car with their hand on their gun? Why do they ask for registration before they tell me what I've done? Why did they have to shoot a guy 12 or 15 times?"

Tinti said citizens are surprised when they participate in the training simulator. "We ran a couple of civilians through a test at the community college. One woman fired six rounds in a second and a half. They were blown away by how fast they could fire these rounds, and they continued to fire as the person in the video was going down," Tinti said.

The civilians got an understanding of how quickly an officer must decide whether to use force and what that means. "You fire until the threat is no longer a threat," Tinti explained. "Couple that with two officers responding and now you have two guns firing. It doesn't take much to see that a guy can be shot 12 or 15 times.

"Most people raise their eyebrows when we talk about decision-making - instantly having to decide whether or not this use of force is condoned or not," Tinti said. "We're trying to make an impact on getting people to understand why law enforcement does what they do."

 

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor