Training simulation shows judgment calls police often face

The Dallas Police Association invited media members and others to participate in shoot-don't-shoot training on Friday.

The idea was to help give those who report on police a better understanding of the split-second judgment calls officers must make.

FOX 4 reporter Shaun Rabb underwent the video simulation training, which acts and reacts with participants. Rabb wore a GoPro camera on his chest to simulate a police body camera.

The first scenario Rabb went through while looking at a screen simulator was a man trespassing at the back of a business.

"My name's Ben," the man said.

Rabb: "Ben, how are you?"
Ben: "Come on over here."
Rabb: "No, sir."
Ben: "I got something for you."
Rabb: "No, sir. Will you get up? Let me see your hands, Ben."

Unexpectedly, Rabb is then confronted by someone with a cell phone videotaping and questioning him.

"Officer, is it against the law for him to be sitting there?" the "cop watcher" says.

Rabb: "I need you to be quiet. I need you to be quiet. Step away, please. Ben, I need you to stand up. I need you to stand up, sir.
Cop watcher: "He's just sitting there. Is that against the law to sit, sir?"

The cop watcher continues as Rabb tries to stay focused.

Rabb: "Ben, I need you to stand up and let me see your hands now. Stand up now. Turn around! Turn around, Ben!"

Ben: "I'm just waiting for a friend."

Rabb: "Now turn around and back up towards me."

"Alright, very good verbal commands there," Noel Johnson with the Texas Municipal Police Association said afterward. "Why did you want to see his hands?"

"Because he had that backpack by him. He was sitting down," said Rabb. "Looked like his right hand was either in the backpack or resting there. I did not know if he was going to produce a weapon."

"Everyone wants to know why cops are so persistent about hands," said Clint McNear with the Texas Municipal Police Association. "Their feet aren't gonna kill you. Their looks aren't gonna kill you. Their mouths aren't gonna kill you. Their hands are gonna kill you."

The second simulation scenario was more serious -- a domestic disturbance. Officers had been called to the home before.

"Look at what he did to me!" yells a woman who answers the door. "He hit me in the [expletive] eye!"

She has visible injuries. A man is standing next to her with a knife in his hand before he drops the knife to a sofa.

"Sir," says Rabb. "Sir. Come here, sir."

The man walks away and Rabb enters the home, calling for help.

"I'm gonna need backup," says Rabb. "I'm gonna need some backup here on Elm, on Elm...sir."

As Rabb walks in, the man walks out of the house into the back yard.

Rabb follows, and the man picks up something from the barbecue pit.

Man: "You got no business in my home."
Rabb: "OK, sir. I need you to put that down. Drop the weapon."
Man: "You need to get the hell out, right now."
Rabb: "I need you to drop the weapon sir. Drop it now!"
Man: "That's my [expletive] wife!"

Rabb "fires shots" at the man. The moment felt very real -- Rabb stood there, mentally blank, until McNear told him to put the "gun" away.

McNear: "What did he have, sir?"
Rabb: "He had a barbecue knife."
McNear: "OK."
Rabb: "Yes, I hope that's what he had."
McNear: "So often times, a weapon doesn't have to be a gun or a knife. It can be a barbecue fork. What's your thoughts on shooting a man with a fork?"
Rabb: "I thought he was coming after me."
McNear: "And you feared for your life?"
Rabb: "I did."
McNear: "With a fork?"
Rabb: "I did."
McNear: "OK."

"He probably is able to at least put some kind of puncture wound in you at the distance he's closed, but you were able to get a lethal shot that would have put him down," said Johnson. "It was 15 to 18 seconds. You gave him multiple commands for him to drop that weapon and he did not…it was 2.6 seconds after he started charging Mr. Rabb before you made that decision. Most officers, if you do not make that decision in .75, in three-quarters of a second, it could be deadly for the officer."

Having no police training, Rabb's reactions were based solely on instinct.

"I think they were proper," said McNear. "With training, they would speed up a little bit. The guy with the barbecue fork, I would have either tased him early on or I would have had my firearm out so as his rush began, I could get on target quicker rather than coming from the holster."

"This type of training, do police departments in the various academies where they send recruits…is it available? Is it part of that academy training?" Rabb asked Clint McNear with the Texas Municipal Police Association.

"Typically not in an academy," said McNear. "These systems are so expensive that today's budgets…and it's often times not cost effective,
so we're doing our best to get to as many agencies as we can, but I think it's great training."   

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