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“Attention all units, you are reporting to the scene of an active school shooting.”
With those words, I could feel my pulse begin to race. I watched silently as a parent’s worst nightmare began to unfold. Two teenage students barely looked my way as they ran past. Their faces pale. Their eyes wide with fear.
“They shot my friend,” cried one student as she craddled another laying in a dark pool of liquid. In the distance, shots rang out – and for a second, I think my heart actually stopped.
The emotions I experienced last week were real, but the scene (thankfully) was not. Instead of a local school, I was sitting in a dark room watching this life-sized action play out on a gigantic screen.
For about two weeks now, local law enforcement officers have been taking advantage of a free service provided by KACo that allows agencies to borrow one of several IES interactive training simulators. The system includes a computer, a 12-foot by 7-foot screen and several realistic weapons, such as a 9mm, tazer and chemical spray. Rather than bullets or pepper spray, each weapon shoots a laser beam that allows the computer to record an officer’s response time and accuracy while reacting to a lethal threat on screen. The system can even respond to verbal commands given by officers. It’s basically a highly-sophisticated video game for police, but the “game” here is keeping officers and innocent civilians safe in an ever-increasingly violent world.
One of the perks of being a journalist is that sometimes I get to experience what I write about. In this case, I got to pretend for a few minutes that I was Grace Hanadarko (a.k.a. Holly Hunter on TNT’s “Saving Grace” for all of you who don’t have a clue who I’m talking about). She’s one tough female cop that has taken down many a man three times her size. She also doesn’t put up with any bull and I like that. Anyway–with laser gun in hand, I got ready for my first call– a domestic dispute.
“Daddy’s going to hurt Mommy,” said a small child as she ran past me. I rounded the corner and found a man with a gun holding a woman around her neck.
“Sir, drop your weapon,” I said repeatedly.
A few screams, the wife gets tossed to the ground and shots are fired. The only problem is that he’s got the smoking gun. I never even drew my weapon. Sadly, a childhood of shooting milk jugs and soda cans on my grandmother’s Trimble County farm doesn’t make me a Hanadarko.
Spencer County Deputy Kyle Bennett said that I’m not the only person who got caught up in the drama of the simulator. Instead of my non-reaction, however, seasoned officers tend to act out of instinct. As a result, Bennett said he’s been requiring all officers to leave their real weapons locked up outside the training room. Seems there have been instances where other police agencies have accidently shot through the $1,400 screen.
If there is a lesson to be learned through the simulation, it’s that civilians can only partially understand the danger our police officers encounter on a daily basis. We think meth labs are danger spots, but it is the everyday traffic stop and domestic disputes that pose just as much a threat to an officer’s life. Our law enforcement officers put their lives at risk every day and many are happy to do just that – but wouldn’t it be great for them to hear how much we appreciated their service? Thanks, guys, for keeping us safe.