Empathy is defined by Merriam Webster’s Dictionary as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another.”
The job of police officer demands that those who wear the badge be able to wear many hats in what they experience on the job day in and day out. Community police officers swear to uphold law and order, are ambassadors of the city they represent, must possess judgment that’s sound and consistent, and understand the appropriate continuum of force to use in the various situations they encounter.
Grain Valley residents, ages 18 and older could experience real life scenarios that police officers face during training provided by the Grain Valley Police Department on Saturday, March 14th. Fifteen citizens of Grain Valley signed up for the instruction provided.
Goals of the training included hearing the department define and explain their use of force continuum, gain insight on decisions officers must make in a chaotic environment, decide in real time if the use of a weapon is reasonable, and answering questions of public participants.
Smokeless Range computer software and a modified Airsoft handgun are used during the simulation. Participants in the training got to experience three scenarios over a fifteen minute session that included two traffic stops and a physical altercation disturbance between two men.
The experience provided not only offered empathy of what it’s like to be a police officer in those situations, it is also the same training used by officers in the department to better their judgment and reaction time.
Ronnie lives in Grain Valley and admitted he took a deep breath prior to staring the simulation due the adrenaline he felt even though he knew what he was about to experience was not real.
“That was definitely interesting. Even in the shooting range portion of the training, I could anticipate what was coming and could feel my heart rate start to increase. This definitely gives you insight into what goes on in the daily life of a police officer,” Ronnie said.
“One wrong move and a whole situation can be different. This is something I’m definitely glad I did and would encourage others to do as well. I have great respect for police officers and this experience only improved that.”
Sergeant Jake Wise of the Grain Valley Police Department led the training provided. Wise focused on the importance of judgment and the value of paying close attention to details in situations you face as an officer in the field.
“You have to read every situation you encounter. Doing so will allow you to know whether de-escalation will work. You want a positive outcome if at all possible,” Wise said.
Grain Valley Chief of Police James Beale wants experiences like Train Like An Officer to drive community engagement between the department and the general public. Beale was on hand for the training and was active in engaging with participants.
“Training is paramount. We’re going to be ready for situations that come our way. Our department is fortunate in that we don’t have too many issues with use of force. I think our guys get to a scene and assess a situation and are good at de-escalation,” Beale said.
“The software affords us the ability to do scenario based training with role playing that we can control. It allows an officer to practice directions like ‘let me see your hands, move over there, drop the weapon’ to be ready for compliant and non-compliant people.”
Beale also spoke to the value of de-escalation as an instrument in an officer’s toolbox.
“A lot of times when we arrive on scene, people’s adrenaline is generally flowing, and they are upset. If we arrive and match their level of intensity it can go bad quick. We try to use reason and a calm voice tone to bring down the situation. Separating two disagreeing parties is also effective. My guys are very good at this and that’s why our use of force is minimized through de-escalation,” Beale said.
Participants in the training were requested to provide feedback that will be used by the department to guide future events and to be discussed internally.