LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Simulator Demonstrates Quick Decisions Police Must Make

By Michael Hill
Correspondent

This is a first for Roslyn Brock, the chairman of the national board of directors of the NAACP — a gun on her hip, instructions from Sgt. Paul Carifi Jr. in the simulator that trains police when to use deadly force or something non-lethal.

“We want the public to have an understanding of what it is that the officer is actually experiencing during that moment and how difficult it is to make the decision,” Carifi said.

As the lieutenant governor and the acting state attorney general watched, Brock requested the media not record or photograph her session. In her exercises, she responded to a call of two subjects at a dumpster. She found one when she arrived. But, the other — like a jack-in-the-box — pops up with a flashlight in one hand and a crowbar in the other. Brock immediately fired at him but missed. In another scenario, the first man whips a screwdriver out of his sweatshirt. Brock fired at him.

“In life, we don’t have a second chance and so with the split moment, particularly with the dumpster when the gentleman was pulling out an object that I could not see, it could have very well been a cell phone. I thought it was a knife and responded accordingly,” she said. “And in that split second I wasn’t worried about a knife or a screwdriver. I was worried about the safety of myself and that individual at that time.”

“The police are really criticized because we shot someone who pulled out a cell phone, or we shot someone who pulled out a knife and they were a certain number of feet away but you just heard her say she didn’t have time to prove that. And if it were a gun and he were to pull the trigger we’d be seriously injured or dead and we just can’t have that,” said New Jersey Police Chiefs Association President Chris Wagner.

This training is part of the ongoing police-community relationship building the New Jersey NAACP, the state attorney general and the police chiefs association started last year. They say their goal is giving an avenue to understanding the issues in police shootings and avoiding inflammatory reactions.

“We’re committed to this conversation,” Wagner said.

Brock — whose brother is Sgt. Ronald Glover with Newark Police — said in her simulator exercises she tried to approach all of the subjects humanely and made this request: “We just kind of need to do a bit more of that in terms of diffusing the situation.”

The civil rights organization’s state community affairs coordinator, George Gore, stepped into the simulator but quickly learned the consequences of not backing up his polite, verbal commands with a readiness to use deadly force against a suspect near a gun.

“I should have felt uncomfortable when she put herself close to the gun but I didn’t. But that’s a training issue. If I had been better trained then I probably would have known there was a possibility that she might do something different,” Gore said.

All agree that these exercises are beneficial because they can change perspective and that this simulator holds benefits because it can teach some important lessons about life and death situations.