Shoot Don’t Shoot- The Split Second Decision

By Faye Higbee

Police must exercise split second decisions every day. None is more complicated or deadly than the moment when they shoot or don’t shoot. With the continual anti-cop hate perpetuated across the nation, it becomes an even more crucial decision making process. That complicated moment is changing the minds of some who are volunteering to see what it’s like from the police perspective.

Use of force training

Michael Spears, a reporter from NBC in Miami-Dade Florida, went through a few hours of “mild” Law Enforcement training in what is known as “shoot don’t shoot.” It is designed to teach officers when to fire their weapons.

(Of course for the reporter it was a short basic training.) The reporter learned quickly that when an officer fires his weapon, it’s more complicated than the news media, or the protesters think.

“Very few people outside of law enforcement themselves have a true understanding of what it’s like to make those decisions.” Officer Thomas Salerno, trainer, Miami-Dade Police

Mr. Spears was shown how to hold the weapon and how to fire it. They are real guns, but the trainers use simulated bullets. The rounds are similar to paint-ball rounds. He reported,

“He took me through several officer training scenarios where I had to decide whether to use my gun.
All began the same, with me facing the wall.
Men were coming at me with knives and other weapons as fellow officers yelled out for help.
It was a blur.
And, it was up to me to decide how to handle what was thrown at me.
I did my best to de-escalate these situations.
I never fired my weapon, even when a gunman came to murder me.
“We don’t teach anybody to die here,” said Salerno.
I quickly learned the answer to whether to shoot or not is far more complicated than one may think.
And, there’s plenty of room for human error which could be deadly.
I also went through traffic stop training.
Still a little on edge from the previous exercise, I felt much more aware of the weapon on my hip.
When the guy got out of the truck and started shooting at me, this time, I fired back.” Michael Spears

Changing minds, one person at a time

Over the years, not just reporters have gone through this training. On occasion activists have given it a try. Last year  in Phoenix, Arizona, a vocal Black Lives Matter activist, Jarret Maupin, tried it and shot an unarmed man (simulated). His response? “He shouldn’t have approached me.”

Maupin said he felt “unsafe.” Imagine what it’s like for a police officer when someone charges at him and doesn’t stop…

He also went through a compliance exercise and realized that when someone is not cooperating with an officer, there may be a reason. The suspect had a knife in his waistband.

As more and more officers are being charged with murder or manslaughter because of that split second decision to shoot, training becomes critical. For them, the training never stops. It’s also important for community members to have some sort of understanding of what occurs.

Officer Salerno said that every bullet belongs to the officer- he is correct. Their reputations, their lives, and the lives of others rests on a split second decision.