Training simulator helps officers make split-second decisions - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Training simulator helps officers make split-second decisions

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Lieutenant Tim Wynn of the Columbus Police Department arrives on a call about a domestic dispute, and finds a man choking his daughter. Wynn yells for the man to get off of her and when the man reaches for his partner's gun, Wynn starts shooting and takes him down. 

"It could go from a officer presence to a deadly force situation in a second," explains Wynn.

This was one of many scenarios CPD officers face during a firearms training simulator exercise. 

"We have different situations that our officers go through and we have to learn that every situation is not the same situation," says Corporal Wendy Thorton of the Columbus Police Department.

Similar to a video game, a real-life scenario is played out on a life-size screen in a darkened room.

During the exercise officers have to decide the appropriate use of force: a gun, pepper spray, a taser, a baton stick or nothing at all.

The weapons are real, but have been modified with air canisters rather than live ammunition.

"We have a mechanism in place that if they bring a certain force to the table we react with a plus one," says Wynn.

Just like in real life, officers only have a second or two to make an ultimately life or death decision.

“The officers have their own decisions to make because when you are out there on the street you're the only that's going to be able to make that decision, you have to be able to justify that decision," explains Thorton.

As officer involved shootings continue to capture worldwide attention, law enforcement officials say they can never judge the situation because they were not there and reactions can differ.

"I hear reactions a lot where they say well I would have done this and I would have done that from a citizen. Well, you never know what you're going to do until you're in the situation; you just never know how you are going to react. I tell everyone one if you feel this way, if you don't like police, if you think we are hard, come through our citizen law enforcement academy," says Thorton.

The Citizen Law Enforcement Academy is operated by CPD, the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office and the Muscogee County Marshal's Office. 

It gives participants a rare look inside of the day to day life of law enforcement official.

It is free and held twice a year, in January and July. Information can be found on the Columbus Police Department's website.

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