Not long ago, members of the Concerned Citizens for the Development of North Fontana were invited by Fontana Police to participate in an interactive police training exercise.
Concerned Citizens is a local civil rights organization which annually co-sponsors the Chillin’ N Grillin’ Barbecue Cookoff with the Fontana Police Officers Association.
The shoot-don’t-shoot simulator has several scenarios modeled after events which police officers often confront in the line of duty.
A video is projected onto a full-size screen which makes the situation look like the real thing. It is so real it typically causes your tension and stress levels to increase.
The idea is to put officers in stressful situations so they can learn how to properly and safely handle situations which are otherwise out of control and potentially life threatening.
Trainees approach the scene as they would any radio call. Scenarios can start with a low-level threat, which can quickly increase and the suspect exhibits significant violence and draws a gun to threaten the lives of both residents and the officer.
What do you do when someone points a gun at you? Do you shoot or not? If you don’t shoot, will you and others be killed?
It is easy to judge someone from the luxury of an easy chair where you have minutes, hours or days to review the situation and second guess outcomes.
But police officers must assess a situation, perceive danger and react to the threat with appropriate force in approximately 1 ½ seconds. That’s the time it takes for the average person to perceive and react.
These aren’t rhetorical debate topics. These are the realities which the police service confronts on every shift.
Our friends at Concerned Citizens accepted the invitation and many experienced firsthand the decision-making process of the Firearms Training Simulator.
Ellen Turner, the president of Concerned Citizens, told us that “you have be a trained observer and pay attention to so many things at one time.”
She went on to explain one of the scenarios she went through. Turner and her partner Dr. Yolanda Friday, the dean of Chaffey College – Fontana, pulled over two people.
The driver got out of the car. Turner explained, “I didn’t see the passenger because he was hiding. When the passenger got out of the car, he immediately began to shoot at us.”
In the scenario, Turner’s partner, Dr. Friday, shot and killed the suspect.
“There is so much going on and it happens so fast. I only saw the driver,” Turner remembered. “I was trying not to shoot anyone but when the other door opened up, if it had not been for my partner, I would have been shot.”
A few years ago in Phoenix, Pastor Jarrett Maupin went through a similar experience. Maupin had recently led marchers to protest the Phoenix Police Department.
Pastor Maupin accepted an invitation from the Maricopa Sheriffs’ Department to experience simulator training. He related his primary takeaway to the local news.
“I didn’t understand how important compliance was. But after going through this, yeah, my attitude has changed. This [entire scenario] is all unfolding in 10 to 15 seconds. People need to comply with the orders of the law enforcement officers for their own sake,” Maupin said.
As Fontana officers, we respectfully ask that you remember the wise counsel attributed to an ancient Native American proverb -- never criticize another person until you've walked a mile in the other person’s moccasins.
(Jason Delair is the president of the Fontana Police Officers Association.)