Shoot or Don’t Shoot: Behind the Badge Part One
We begin our two part series, Behind the Badge, tonight with Shoot or Don’t Shoot, the split second decisions officers make which could mean life or death. News 25’s Laurene Callander reports.
Viral videos of officer involved shootings sweep the nation in recent years, sparking anger and mistrust of law enforcement and triggering questions from the public about the use of deadly force. According to Gulfport Police Department’s policies and procedures there are two reasons why an officer would shoot. Lieutenant Phillip Kincaid said, “One: to protect ourselves and someone else from serious injury or death or to take a fleeing felon that if we don’t get them that they would be an imminent threat to society.”
With criticism and questions revolving around the topic, I decided to go through a firearms training simulator with Gulfport police, a training tool they use for officers that put them through situations where they must decide shoot or don’t shoot.
The first scenario is a call of a man with a gun in his pants at a convenience store. After being approached, he put his hands up, but quickly things changed. The man then grabbed an innocent bystander and crouched behind a vehicle. I was hesitant, but eventually fired back, killing the suspect. “When you’re in that type of situation is your adrenaline pumping? (Yes.) Is your heart rate elevated? (Yes),” said Kincaid.
In fact, my heart rate peaked at 158, a huge spike from my average of 110. And adrenaline isn’t the only thing racing in these situations. “It’s not just ‘hey, I’m trying to kill that guy,’ but you have things going through their mind like ‘I don’t want to be in this situation. Why is this happening to me? What’s department procedures, lawsuits,” said Kincaid.
The next scenario hit hard: an active shooter in a school. I walk in a room and see a man holding a gun to a woman’s head. While I hoped talking to him would calm him down, I waited too long and he shot the woman, then me. I was overcome by emotions. “Officers in this department go through the same emotions. It’s just the more we train, the more exposure we give them to real life scenarios whether it’s through watching videos, whether it’s through fire arm training simulator, it’s to prepare you for the worst,” said Kincaid.
It is easy to watch videos of officer involved shootings and question every action, but going through the scenarios opened my eyes. I learned it’s all about the perception of a threat. “It’s quick to judge somebody, but don’t judge us until you’re willing to walk in our shoes and I’m opening that door. I’m inviting anybody that wants to come do it, come on,” said Kincaid.
If you are interested, sign up for the Gulfport Citizen’s Police Academy and see what split second decisions you make when you are behind the badge.