Shoot or don't shoot? Training to put yourself in an officer's shoes

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Action News sent a reporter and an activist to get ?use of force? training as they tried to put themselves in police officers' shoes. (KFSN)

In light of recent police shootings, including the death of Dylan Noble three weeks ago, we've heard a lot of criticism of law enforcement. But police said they're being second-guessed for making split second decisions in moments of extreme stress and danger.

Action News sent a reporter and an activist to get "use of force" training as they tried to put themselves in police officers' shoes.

Jamal Bethea now knows exactly how it feels to open fire on a man he believed was threatening his life.

"It takes a lot to diagnose a situation, dissect it, break it down and see it for what it is and see that officer has less than 20 seconds to make a split decision, so it's very difficult," he said.

About 10 days ago, Bethea walked the streets of Fresno and Clovis as part of a peaceful protest, in part against police brutality. Bethea marched in unison with the Black Lives Matter movement, but said every life matters, including officers'. And Tuesday, he realized just how much theirs can be at risk every day on the job.

Bethea and an Action News reporter went through a two-hour course on laws concerning the use of force -- when officers can shoot and when they shouldn't.

The next step of their training was similar to a video game. In the Fresno Police Department's force option simulator, trainees encounter suspects in scenarios Fresno police might encounter and have to decide what level of force, if any, to use.

"What'd you see?" asked trainer Robert Boccasile immediately after a reporter shot a suspect armed with a knife and lunging towards him.

"What'd you do? And why?"

"Well, he wasn't listening at all," the reporter said. "He is a computer simulation, so that could be part of it, but you could tell he wasn't responding to commands."

Trainers followed up the computer testing with a live simulation with real police-issued handguns, but paintballs instead of bullets.

Both the reporter and the activist felt they were quick to pull their guns on occasion.

But as the reporter found out, sometimes a delayed decision allows a suspect to get a little too close.

"This is a great service for the community for them to be able to see into the officer's world and actually see that like, it's beyond 'every officer isn't bad,'" Bethea said. "It's just like they have to do their job and their job is a very, very difficult one."

And now, Bethea hopes to give more activists a shot at understanding.

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societyblack lives matterfresno police departmentofficer involved shootingfresnoFresno
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