Simulation gives lawmakers, public glimpse at split-second police decisions – The Columbus Dispatch
The Fraternal Order of Police hosted lawmakers, media and members of the public for an educational session at the Columbus Police Academy, to provide a glimpse into the decisions that officers make on a daily basis.
As state Rep. Tim Schaffer stepped up to the video screen, he learned that he would be encountering an active shooter at a school.
The screen showed victims lying on the floor, others screaming and still more running from audible gunfire.
Schaffer’s point of view changed as he turned a corner to see a shooter with a weapon trained on the back of a woman’s head. Schaffer fired multiple rounds, striking the shooter, and relaxed.
Only then did he realize the scenario wasn’t over. There were two more shooters coming at him — and from different directions.
Schaffer managed to hit all three shooters, but he also was shot. The scenario didn’t determine whether he survived.
Ten minutes later, Schaffer, a Lancaster Republican, said he could still feel the adrenaline coursing through his body.
“A thousand things were going through my head,” he said. “In a micro-second, you’re cycling through all these thoughts.”
The scenario that Schaffer went through is one of more than 600 available to police for training at the Columbus Police Academy through the MILO Range training system.
The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio hosted about a dozen state legislators, members of the public and local media for an educational session Thursday at the West Side academy to learn about use-of-force policies. They also participated in simulations and scenarios similar to what officers go through as part of their academy training and as continuing education throughout their careers.
Columbus Police Sgt. Chris Cheatham, a defensive training instructor at the academy, said about 20 percent of all suspects who police encounter resist officers in some way, and that’s where use-of-force comes into play.
In 2017, the last full year with data available, Columbus police reported 13 deadly incidents of use-of-force in more than 1 million runs for service. There were 1,350 uses of physical force, such as using a pressure point or taking a subject to the ground.
Cheatham said the human mind takes about one-third of a second to process information, which can be the difference in going home to a family or not. He demonstrated how suspects can still shoot a gun with their backs turned to an officer, and played videos of officers shooting multiple rounds while being hit by a Taser.
“Our ultimate goal is that no one be hurt or injured,” Cheatham said.
In one scenario, Cheatham handed participants an unloaded training revolver and told them they were working security at a business in a mall. A person was walking through the mall holding a firearm at his side, walking away from the participant. When confronted by the participant security officer, the man with the gun fired. Every participant who went through the scenario hesitated before pulling the trigger.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Schaffer said. “I’m glad we have men and women who go through intensive and long training.”
Jason Pappas, vice president of the Ohio FOP, said events such as the one held Thursday are important to help the public understand police perception during critical incidents.
“We shouldn’t wait for controversial situations to happen,” he said. “These are really dynamic situations.”
Schaffer said he felt it was important as a lawmaker to better understand what law-enforcement officers go through to make sure he’s making the best decisions in the legislature to help everyone involved.
“We need to know what our police professionals go through,” he said. “The moment they put that uniform on, there’s that threat every day.”