Police officers are taking a beating these days.
Not by everyone, mind you, but by some who at times seem to imply that they believe police officers generally are a trigger-happy bunch too willing to pull their guns out and shoot someone.
I feel compelled to revisit a course I once took courtesy of the Amarillo Police Department.
A few years ago, APD officials invited some media folks to its simulated training center for a little practical training on how and when to fire a pistol at someone committing a crime.
Do you shoot or not shoot? That was the question we had to answer to ourselves in a split second while undergoing a simulated criminal act. In the dark. With little warning of what was about to happen.
We were armed with guns that shot paint balls. If you got hit with one of these pellets, well, it smarted some.
We were dressed with some protective gear, given the scenario we were about to visit, then turned loose into a room, or a hallway to confront someone — portrayed by an Amarillo police officer — who is committing a simulated “crime.”
Shoot or don’t shoot?
I have to admit something right here: I didn’t do well on all the scenarios with which I was presented. In once instance, I “shot” someone who was running away from me. I wasn’t supposed to shoot in that case. The training officers all laughed out loud at me; I laughed back … with considerable embarrassment.
One of the things I learned from the training exercise, though, was how one’s adrenalin rushes through one’s body. My own body was trembling with anticipation as I entered each scenario — and I knew I was shooting paint balls, not real bullets.
When it was over, I tried to imagine how my adrenal glands would have reacted had I been an on-duty cop, packing a 9-mm pistol, confronting a bad guy and then having to decide in a split second whether to shoot him or let him go.
My sweat-soaked body betrayed the nerves that got the better of me.
Law enforcement does have bad police officers who make poor decisions. They usually are called out by witnesses, the media and even at times fellow officers. The rest of them — most of them — do their jobs well.
Those are the men and women who deserve our thanks.