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Community activists try out deadly force

November 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Community activists got a lesson in L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. deadly-force training Tuesday.The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department recruited community members Tuesday for some hands-on training in an effort to quell concerns about the use of force.

Members of the community were invited to see firsthand how sheriff's deputies are trained to deal with dangerous and high-stress situations.

The activists who attended the academy training Tuesday have very often been critics of the sheriff's department and the use of deadly force.

Tuesday, though, they got a chance to try out and get a taste of what the officers themselves go through -- they got a chance to stand in the deputy's shoes.

During a simulation of an attack, the trainee must decide whether to fire and who to shoot. But here, it's not a cadet that's in a face-off. It is community activists and watchdogs with a finger on the trigger.

"You have a split second to make a decision on whether to pull the trigger and use deadly force to take human life," said Eddie Jones, president, Los Angeles Civil Rights Association. "A split-second -- and that's not a lot of time."

Perceptions, accurate or not, bring distrust and hostility. To clear the air, activists heard from trainers on the use of legal force.

"Is it impossible for you all to have another gun with rubber bullets that you all can use as well?" said activist Kenneth Jones.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department pledges to be transparent.

"It's hard to dissect every situation that's occurring out there, but we will," said L.A. County Sheriff's Commander Tom Laing.

The simulation training exposed the emotional side of a confrontation.

"When I was simulating shooting out, my adrenaline went up," said Dr. Sandra Moore, Solutions.

And when a suspect is shot in the back, does that mean he is innocently running away?

"I guess people just normally turn their backs," said Jones. "It only takes a split-second to turn your back and by that time the officer might have squeezed off six or seven rounds."

It was a practical lesson.

"You have to emphasize that you have to be -- before you use deadly force, you must be sure that you're in danger," said Moore.

Assessing the danger though, that is the difficulty. Was that suspect carrying a gun or was it a cell phone? Tuesday, activists say they still have questions. There was no conversion experience. Some of them say they learned a lot but they still have questions about how a suspect can die with 10 bullet wounds to the back.


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