In the simplest of terms, it is a cop’s job to keep us from doing things we might want to do, provided those things are technically illegal or might do harm to others or ourselves. They are in a position of authority over us, and many of us don’t take kindly to being told what to do.
I say “simplest terms” because, to be blunt, many folks define law enforcement officers by those terms alone, and in general, that type of person typically isn’t capable of seeing things any way but their own. It’s narrow-minded.
Those folks, I think, would greatly benefit from an opportunity like the one I was fortunate enough to receive Friday.
Over the last two weeks, the Cadiz Police Department was in possession of a Use of Force Training Simulator. The system, which provides interactive video recreations of scenarios to prepare officers for work in the field, was a real eye-opener for me, someone who already holds a healthy respect for law enforcement.
In the simulations, actors portray individuals who may or may not require the use of force by an officer to subdue them. Each scenario can branch out in a variety of directions depending upon the actions of the person being tested.
Here’s a few things that caught my attention as I went through the simulations:
– The production value. First of all, the videos are constructed well and make the subject feel like they’re in the action. The actors do a great job of testing physical and mental reactions.
– The detail. In one of the scenarios I faced, I potentially could have resolved the situation much sooner had I noticed a brief glimpse of a gun in the possession of one of the would-be criminals. Other scenarios feature bystanders and other distractions that can deter an officer from performing their duty. Attention has to be paid to the entire viewing screen, not just the area covered by the individuals in the foreground.
– The intensity. The system includes a variety of weapons an officer might use in these scenarious, and the gun I used was propped to mimic actual gunfire, complete with sound and recoil.
– The stress. Scenarios unfold in a way that the subject might think nothing is going to happen before they quickly escalate. Reaction time has to be quick.
If these simulations are any indication of what life can be like for law enforcement officers in potentially volatile situations, then the following things are true:
1. Whether conscious or subconscious, my decision to not pursue a career in law enforcement was the right one.
2. Police don’t get nearly the credit or respect they deserve.
There are people – many in our own community – who openly despise the police. Officers deal on a daily basis with a wide range of personalities. Some want to deceive them, others are ready to perform physical violence at a moment’s notice.
And the officers do it – whether you choose to believe it or not – to protect our community and keep their family, friends and neighbors safe.
I’m not asking you to go hug a cop, only to believe me when I say they aren’t out to get you – they’re out to serve you.
Justin McGill is general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.