Cadets get FATS training

Published 2:43 pm Thursday, September 23, 2010

Police officers face a number of dangerous situations on the job that force them to make split second decisions in an effort to maintain law and order but live to see another day.

Fire Arms Training Simulator is used to train officers how to handle dangerous situations in a safe environment. The system basically consists of  a large screen and a Glock .22 modified to fire a red laser instead of live rounds.

Cadets in the Police Department’s Community Police Academy got a chance to use the FATS system on Tuesday, with instruction from Sgt. Mike Carter with the Wiggins Police Department. Carter is a member of the Stone County Narcotics Task force and a Defensive Tactics Instructor.

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Several of the cadets took turns running through different scenarios where the objective was to decide if the situation warranted the officer firing up on the suspect, or trying to handle the situation in a less lethal manner.

Each of the scenarios had about three different outcomes. Only a few warranted the use of a firearm while most could be handled with strong verbal commands or even the use of a taser. No matter the scenario’s outcome, the ultimate goal is to minimize the loss of life.

“That’s what we’re here for. We’re in the business of saving lives,” Carter said.

One scenario showed a visibly intoxicated man attempting to break into a building. In one version of that scenario the man becomes belligerent and eventually pulls a knife. Cadets asked Carter what the best way to handle a suspect with a knife. He said it would all be situational, but in that specific instance the suspect was a good distance away from the officer so he posed no immediate threat. Since the suspect was on a flight of stairs, the best option would be to keep that distance and wait for the suspect to move to a flat landscape before attempting to take the suspect into custody to avoid severely injuring the man.

A different outcome of the  same scenario had the man pull a gun from his pants, in that situation Carter said the only option would have been to fire at the suspect.

After running through a few scenarios, Carter showed cadets how to use cover to their advantage. Using cover allows the officer to get a feel for their surroundings by either using the “slicing the pie” or “quick peek” methods.

When “slicing the pie” an officer will move away from the wall, while still using it as cover, and move out just slightly each time, thereby getting a little bit of the scenery behind the wall. That method ensures the officer is still protected by the wall, or other cover, but can get a clear view of the suspect, Carter said.

“Quick peeks” involve an officer close to a wall, or door frame, poking his head out quickly to capture as much of the scenery on the other side as possible, Carter said.

Carter shed a little light on news stories about officers shooting  suspects several times. He cited adrenaline as the main culprit. He said when an officer is responding to a dangerous situation, such as a hostage event, they become subject to tunnel vision. When they reach a situation where firing their weapon is warranted, an officer may remember firing a gun only a few times, when they may have emptied their clip.

“For a lack of a better term, you have to use the fear that you have,” Carter said.

Nationwide events force departments to alter their training requirements to ensure public safety. Carter said after Columbine, nearly every law enforcement agency’s officers are trained in active shooter scenarios. Carter said an FBI investigation in how Columbine was handled found the slow response of the SWAT team was the reason the two suspects were able to inflict so many casualties. The investigation led to the implementation of active shooter training.

Picayune Police Capt. Chad Dorn said that a few years ago, if an incident similar to Columbine had occurred in Picayune, the nearest SWAT team would been hours away. Now all officers on the department, including school resource officers, are trained in active shooter techniques, enabling a rapid response should such an event ever occur.

Even if there is not a major event, Dorn said all law enforcement agencies in Pearl River County have a mutual aid agreement. He saidwhen there is are several events in the city at one time, the Sheriff’s Department will assist, and vice versa.

Carter also took a second to describe his scariest moment on the force. He said he was only months out of the academy performing a routine traffic stop. During the stop, Carter said the driver reached into his glove box to pull out a chrome plated weapon that resembled a hand gun, and shoved it out of the window. The driver’s action naturally forced Carter to pull his own weapon and command the driver to show both of his hands. The man did as he was told and told Carter that the weapon was a BB gun.

Carter said he asked the man why he thought to tell him he had a gun in that manner, especially since he could have been seriously injured. Carter said the man told him he was attempting to tell him he had a gun in the car but in retrospect did not think the process through.

“The human being is the dumbest creature on the face of the planet,” Carter said.

Dorn said a motorist has a gun in the car should verbally let an officer know of its presence and location, but not reach for it.

Next week the cadets will travel to the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department where they will learn about the department’s SWAT team and K-9 unit. Dorn said there may be a tour of the jail, but that has not yet certain.