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Shoot or don't shoot? New technology used in police training

Ever imagined being a cop forced to make split second, life or death, decisions? We got a chance to see what that's like.
November 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Have you ever imagined being a police officer forced to make split-second, life or death, decisions? We had a rare opportunity to see what that's like.

I had an exclusive look at a new tool being used by the Santa Ana Police Department. It's called the MILO force option system, a high-tech tool on a 12-by-7-foot screen.

As you stand at the ready, the tense scenario unfolds in front of you. And because of its artificial intelligence, it will react according to the decisions you make.

I had a Taser on one side and a pistol on the other. Which weapon to use was just one of many split-second decisions I had to make. In our first scenario, there was a confrontation with an angry woman I just pulled over.

I pulled my Taser, not my gun. But I didn't deploy it fast enough and got "punched" in the face. After every scenario, Cpl. Oscar Lizardi with the Santa Ana Police Department reviewed what just happened.

I told Lizardi I didn't feel like this was a deadly force scenario. I didn't see a weapon on her. I just felt anger but I didn't necessarily feel threat.

The next scenario was another traffic stop. This time, I had a partner in a patrol car off screen. A male driver and a female passenger got out of the car. I noticed that the driver had a gun in his hand, so I opened fire.

The system even lets you see exactly where your shot hit. If you are off target, the suspect keeps coming.

I missed my first shot when I fired at the male driver. My second shot was on target, but by then the suspect had already fired at my partner, who returned fire, hitting him. My concentration then moved to the female, who also pulled out a gun. I opened fire but missed on my first try. She opened fire, and then I hit her on my second shot. In that scenario, I'd potentially be dead already.

Next up was a stressful and complicated domestic violence incident. A male suspect was holding a crying baby as he pushed a woman to the ground and pulled out a gun and pointed it at me. Concerned about the baby, I pulled my Taser instead of my gun.

"This is a tough one. I looked for any sign of a weapon. I didn't see it. I saw the baby. That was my main concern," I told Lizardi during our debriefing. "The challenge here was clearly trying to the calm them down and if I had to use force, somehow I'd have to get around the baby."

"Ultimately, what happened?" Lizardi asked me.

"He killed me," I replied.

In the next scenario, a gunman was on the loose inside a building filled with people. I saw victims on the ground. They directed me toward where the gunman might be. I then came face to face with the gunman and told him to drop his weapon. He pointed the gun at me, so I opened fire and eventually killed him.

In that case, I had to assess the situation and make sure that the person with the gun was not another cop or a security guard. When analyzing the shots, the exchange of gunfire shows it took several shots for me to stop him.

Even in that last scenario, I very well may not have survived because the gunman may have already shot me.

It's an eye-opening illustration of how difficult it is to be a police officer. And keep in mind, I did this with full knowledge I was under no real threat. Imagine what it's like when your life truly does hang in the balance.


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