I-Team: How Montgomery Police Officers Are Trained on Using Force

Any time there’s an officer-involved shooting, like the Montgomery Police Department shooting of Gregg Gunn on McElvey Street, decisions have to be made in a split second. Those decisions can make the difference between life and death, for the police officer and the person involved.

The Alabama News Network I-Team saw how the Montgomery Police Department uses a virtual reality simulator to help officers make the right decision. Trainees can actually speak to the simulator to try to defuse the situation before deciding whether to use force.

Our reporter Darryl Forges tried it out for himself with the help of Montgomery Police Training Bureau Commander Lt. Stephen Lavender. In the simulation involving a woman who had cut her boyfriend, we saw her reach for something in her back pocket. But what she grabbed wasn’t easy to see because it was dark.

“One time, we’ll make her reach in her back and grab a weapon. The next time, she’ll reach in her back and just grab a bottle of liquor. Because it’s dark, and because she just threw her knife down, and because I knew she just cut her boyfriend those are key factors that works into that officers behavior if deadly force should be used. What is that officer led to believe she’s reaching for?” Lavender told us.

He says when force is used, it has to be within the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution, federal, state and local law. A police officer also has to follow department policies and be in compliance with how the equipment should be used. That’s a lot for any officer to think about in that split-second.

The Montgomery Police Academy usually has about 30 officers in a training class, but 25% to 35% sometimes drop out before completing their training.

 

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