By Morgan Bryce
To act or react? That was the point in question during last Monday’s firearms training session for local media members, who were given an opportunity to experience routine tasks faced daily in the life of an Opelika policeman.
The session featured two-dimensional videos which allowed participants the ability to think and act like a police officer, facing scenarios ranging from domestic violence to routine traffic stops. Armed with a holster and simulator gun, the goal for the participant is to reconcile the situation, whether by use of force or by using appropriate actions to end the conflict.
According to Opelika Police Capt. Bobby Kilgore, the police department offers local city groups and government leaders the chance to use the simulator several times throughout the year, and he said it usually gives them insight into what real police work is like.
“We hope that the message we get across is to show the reality … how quickly things can happen. It’s not like you see on TV, I promise,” Kilgore said. “The most often comment I hear from people after going through the simulator is, ‘I didn’t know. I didn’t realize things happened that quickly and I didn’t realize that things could go so badly that quickly.’”
Officer Daniel Metivier, who works as the department training officer for the OPD, said the simulator serves as an invaluable tool to train officers, regardless of their amount of experience.
“This is very important … in fact, I don’t believe that there is much other training out there that could give them the same benefits as having just multiple roles that they have to be put in to make those decisions … but that’s ultimately what it helps them do is to perceive and make decisions,” Metivier said.
Sgt. Ben Blackburn said that every officer, regardless of experience, goes through simulator testing to keep them on their toes. He said that the simulator helps them retain what they have learned in previous training.
“(While using the simulator) they have to rely heavily on their training to make the appropriate responses, so that they can apply the right amount of force necessary to stop the threat,” Blackburn said.
In a day and age where police officers are subject to scrutiny and distrust, Kilgore said he hopes similar outreach initiatives like the program held Monday help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the public.
“We do several outreach programs as a department, like the citizen’s police academy among others … the best thing to do is talk. If you see a police officer in a convenience store doing a business check, go up to him and talk to him and ask questions,” Kilgore said. “We serve the public, and that’s what we’re here for. To me, that’s the best way.”