SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - In light of a spate of police-involved shootings around the country, The San Jose Police Department is trying to bring the public behind the curtain of its use-of-force training.
KTVU South Bay reporter Jesse Gary had to strap on a police belt with digital weapons, to participate in a simulation as a beat cop on the way to testify at trial.
Seconds into the video program, a robbery in progress develops with the victim yelling. Gary gives commands for the suspect to move away, but an instant later he's shooting, and Gary is in the open with his gun in its holster. The Likely outcome, Gary's brief stint on the force ends as an officer killed in the line of duty. During debriefing afterwards, training officer Teddy Davis details some of what I he wrong...
"He actually turns around to you and says, 'he's got a gun!' so he tells you that," says Davis, as other members of the media look on.
It's one of the many lessons taught in the simulator and in the classroom of this four-hour training. Every 24-months, officers and new recruits hone decision making skills during high-stress encounters. The department's Tactical Conduct code for pre-force tactics stresses situational assessment and slowing down the pace of a potentially violence situation.
"To ensure that our officers have de-escalation on their minds when they go into a situation they believe could lead to physical force," says Lieutenant Jason Dwyer, a research and development officer with the department. He oversees the training program.
Department commanders point to this police-involved shooting July 4th. Relatives called 911, saying 18-year-old Anthony Nunez was depressed and suicidal and armed. Arriving officers retreated across the street talked for 20-minutes, until Nunez pointed his handgun at them. That's when two officers used deadly force, killing him.
"Force is an ugly thing. It’s something we try not to use on a regular basis," says Dwyer. He adds, "But there are times in law enforcement where it is necessary."
The line between warranted and unwarranted use of force is razor thin and difficult to see in the blink of an eye.
Our reporter was given a second chance at the simulator, and this time He's armed with experience and training.
With no desire to be figuratively "killed" again, Gary retreats behind cover, gives commands to the robbery suspect and waits with his gun drawn. But this time, training officer Anthony Kilmer changed the outcome— the suspect comes at the would-be officer Gary, fists flying.
Feeling threatened, and remembering he had a gun last time, Gary pulls the trigger shooting once, but there is no gun in this version of the scenario, and he shoots an unarmed man.