Simulations valuable in promoting awareness

To fully understand a person’s situation, experiencing it firsthand is the best way. That is, “walk in their shoes.”

However, a realistic video simulation gave a dozen community residents the next-best option for understanding the types of potentially dangerous and lethal situations police officers sometimes encounter during their shifts.

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Columbus Police Department invited the African American Pastors Alliance and their guests on Dec. 8 to experience a FireArms Training Simulator exercise in the sheriff’s department’s training room.

The simulator — a virtual firearms training device — is used by law enforcement agencies for training to improve judgment skills, marksmanship and reaction time. The local police and sheriff’s departments use it annually.

Participants see on a large screen videos of real-life situations and hold a modified gun with electronics that show on the screen where your shots hit when the weapon is fired.

Community leaders were faced with different scenarios in which use of lethal force was clearly appropriate sometimes, but not others. Participants were asked to make life-or-death situations in a matter of seconds — just like police officers.

The exercise was an important second part of “Quarterly Conversation: A Dynamic Discussion on Race” organized by the pastors alliance. The first part was a discussion Dec. 7 at Columbus City Hall.

Understanding why police sometimes use lethal force is critical considering it has resulted in racial friction in some parts of the country.

Participants in the simulation exercise said it was an eye-opening and valuable experience. That’s good, because it helped promote greater understanding.

The hope is that the simulation is used again as part of future events dealing with race relations and many more people in the community benefit by participating.