Inside the Fresno Police Department

5/5/2008 Fresno, CA Within the last few weeks officers in Fresno and deputies in Merced have killed suspects who they say threatened their lives. In a matter of seconds the officers were forced to assess the situation and decide how to respond; here at Roosevelt High School and at the Merced County Courthouse last week.

Their bosses said they did what they were trained to do. So Action News wanted to know exactly what is the training.

The Fresno Police shootout training is as real as it gets for officers who train for any and every situation on Fresno's streets. To experience the dangers firsthand Reporter Sontaya Rose strapped on a gun with paintball type bullets, shoved on a helmet and took a shot at being an officer.

"We're going to make a traffic stop on this car, OK partner."

I'm in the passenger seat. My partner, Officer Ezequiel Suarez, is driving.

"Gun, gun, gun, gun."

Before I could even step out of the car, things got ugly. My breathing alone shows the immediate stress I was feeling.

Before I could even take in what was happening, it was over. "My heart is pounding. It all happened so fast and I was depending on him," said Sontaya Rose.

Sergeant Sean Biggs trains new officers, he told me what to expect before my animated and real life scenarios. "When your body goes through a stress process the blood is pumped away from all the areas you really need it like your head, your ears, your eyes. It goes to areas where it thinks you'll need it like your torso, your abdomen, your legs, it's called a fight or flight response."

In a video game like setting I warmed up by responding to calls that any officer would get. "You respond to a robbery in progress as you identify a suspect fleeing from the building outside. 'Stop Fresno Police Department stop get your hands up, get your hands up.'" Fumbling to get out my gun, I was shot by the suspect. It left me second guessing whether I should've addressed the suspect, before drawing my weapon.

Officers undergo training once a year for an entire week to brush up and learn new techniques. "We try to create stress; a stressful environment for our officers to train in. We want the situations to be similar to the situations they're gonna face on the street," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Every day in Fresno officers use some type of force. In just a few seconds it is up to them to decide what level is appropriate. "First he has to perceive the threat if the threat is there and if lethal force is warranted he's going to have to get out of his holster, he's gonna have to get a proper grip on the handgun, he's gonna have to sweep the safety, he's gonna have to come up and then he's going to have to decide 'do I use lethal force or do I not use lethal force,'" said Sergeant Biggs with the Fresno Police Department.

Aside from the mechanical movements, there's the emotion of getting caught up in the moment. And nothing compares to seeing bullets come at you, even if they are not deadly.

Sontaya Rose ABC 30 Action News.

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