Column: Citizens’ Academy Ramps Up the Tension
By Jacob Mathias
I want you to imagine something.
You’re driving in the middle of the night, during a kind of quiet you only experience at about 3 AM. Then, your phone rings.
You answer. Someone’s in trouble; you’re told a woman can be heard screaming in terror and a man was threatening to kill her. Now, it’s your job to get to that location as fast as you can. It’s your job to help.
When you arrive at the home, you can hear a woman screaming from inside. The front door is wide open — meaning someone either tried to escape, or someone forced their way in.
You enter the house with and turn a corner. A large man stands over a woman cowering in a corner. He has a knife aimed at the woman, but as far as you can tell, no one’s hurt.
What do you do?
This week, the Portage Co. Emergency Services Citizens’ Academy class was enacting deadly force scenarios, held at the Plover Police Department’s TAC (tactical) House. Inside the facility is the framework of your average ranch-style house with movable walls. Local law enforcement use the house to practice scenarios involving use of deadly force.
We were given the scenario described above.
Our class paired off as teams of “officers” responding to the call, armed with air-soft pistols to simulate the use of deadly force, if our scenario required it.
The legal definition for the justification of deadly force is, “behavior which has caused or imminently threatens to cause death or great bodily harm to you or another person.”
Obviously, that definition is open to interpretation: I know we all have one, but I don’t know what the right one is.
During my round in the simulation, my partner and I repeatedly yelled for the suspect (an off-duty police officer) to drop the knife. He refused. Eventually he reached for a gun at his side. At this point, we both fired our weapons multiple times.
It’s an odd experience firing a weapon — even an air-soft gun — at someone. During the simulation, your adrenaline kicks in. The lighting is dim and a woman is screaming for her life. Once you begin firing, it’s difficult to turn your mind around and stop once the threat has been neutralized.
I observed my classmates engage in the same experience. Some shot immediately, while others waited even longer than I did.
It should be noted that no matter when we executed deadly force in this scenario, each instance was justified, according to the legal definition.
I’m not sure what else to say about this experience yet. Deadly force is a tricky subject to discuss in today’s political climate. Our class will soon learn much more about it; maybe then I’ll have more to say later. All I can go on now, is what I said earlier: it’s a scary situation, even in a simulation, and I am glad it’s not my job to do.
I gain more respect for our local law enforcement every time I sit down and write about my experiences with the Citizens’ Academy.
Stay tuned next week as I continue my education at the Citizens’ Academy.