I shot a police officer yesterday. Not in real life, Thank God, in a video simulation, but still, I was sorry. I wasn’t a bad guy in the simulation either, I was just sloppy.
As part of the story on page one of the Thursday, February 2 edition of the Advocate-Press, “FPD to train with FATS video shooting sim,” members of the area media including myself were invited to put on a gun and try out the FATS (Firearms Automated Training Simulator) that the Flora Police Department are currently using.
Before I get all serious, let me quickly explain that my that my experience while sobering, was a great deal of fun. I say this in case anyone who was present thinks I’m trying to deny I enjoyed myself.
So back to being a cop for an afternoon...
Randy Poole of WNOI Music 104 was my partner.
We were each given simulated .45-caliber Glocks with a laser in place of the barrel and a CO2 cartridge to replicate recoil. Randy also was given a simulated TASER and I had simulated Mace pepper spray.
I got a weapon that seemingly never ran out of gas no matter how much I fired it, where Randy was stuck with a gun that jammed so often it made me wonder if it was just included in the setup to frustrate “the rookie” or some other such cliche.
Our first simulation had us going down the hallway of an office building during an “Active Shooter” scenario. This was essentially a man trying to gun down folks in the building.
We weren’t able to look around corners as the simulation took us to where the shooter was. He quickly picked up his assault rifle and tried to aim it towards us. It didn’t end well for him.
Then, I began to realize why things are a bit more difficult for a real police officer than for a portly video game aficianado.
“How many shots did you fire?” asked Flora Police Chief John Nicholson.
“Three,” said Poole.
“Ummm... four,” I replied with hesitation.
“How many other people were there in the hallway?” the Chief asked.
I think I guessed and said two. Which there were, at the end of the simulation. Originally, there were three, one of them running away. I was rather better at shooting the suspect than keeping the innocents from harm (Which, is well, a cop’s actual job).
In fact I didn’t even notice the innocent folks as any real part of the activity until we were on the replay when we found out that we had not, in fact, shot any of them. If we had aimed a little lower in perforating the target, that might not have been the case.
Page 2 of 2 - Another scenario had us backing up a police officer that desperately needed assistance. When we arrived at the scene, we found the armed suspect in a stand-off with one police officer while holding another as a human shield.
Things escalated and he shot the officer across from him. Then I tried to shoot him. I did shoot him. And the female officer he was holding, as the replay showed.
The “Bad Boys,” bullet over the shoulder of the hostage and into the bad guys brain does not go as well in real life as in the movie. Or for that matter, not in real life, but in a simulation like this one.
The replayed showed the gory details. In my overzealous attempt to get the bad guy, I had shot the female cop being used as a shield through the right lung. It would not be a good day for her, especially since the bad guy shot her too.
I think that for any police officer, this would be close to a “no-win” scenario. Still it was disappointing to see the screen show the impact over an area that would mean I had ended someone’s life...someone who, if this were real, and I were a real cop, would have been a co-worker, colleague or maybe a friend.
The overarching point of all of this: It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but these guys don’t have it easy.
I understand that it’s just a simulation and it isn’t like this was a “wake-up call”– I’ve known for a long time that being a cop would be tough gig for more reasons than the hours.
It’s a career where you’re far more likely to be blamed for the bad you do than thanked for the good. When I screw up, it’s a typo or someone’s name is misspelled or omitted. When they screw up people could die. And if you think “Then they just shouldn’t screw up,” ask yourself how easy any given job would be with that rather unreachable standard.
Think of it like this: best case scenario, they get to spend their time filling out paperwork, busting speeders, and getting irritating drunks to sober off safely.
Worst case scenario, that gal in the video simulation is real and someone has to go to her house and tell her family she isn’t coming home.