GPD holds judgmental use of force training



As part of its ongoing officer training, the Griffin Police Department recently held Judgmental Use of Force training. For the first time, in addition to its officers, the PD this year extended an invitation to members of the local media to participate in similar training exercises entitled Citizen Police Encounters and Use of Force.

According to Sgt. Gene Mathews, this training was planned to present real life situations they may face on the job.

“The purpose of the Judgmental Use of Force training is to put officers in scenarios they may face on any given shift. It gives the instructors a chance to see how the officers would react in any of the scenarios we put them through, as well as an opportunity to evaluate what additional training may be beneficial,” he said, adding that the training was successful. “Overall, the training went well. Everyone responded in the manner the instructors thought they would, and some areas of additional training needs were identified.”

Mathews said the training was planned in such a way to make it as real to life as possible, all the way down to the weapons officers used.

“For this training, we used simunition firearms that operate exactly like the officers’ issued weapons. These weapons actually fire projectiles that resemble a paint ball, which when fired, will leave a mark similar to a paint ball,” he said. “With these sim guns and simunition (the ammunition), we put officers in scenarios such as domestic disputes, alarm and burglary calls, active shooters and traffic stops. Other officers portrayed characters such as domestic partners, burglars, business owners or employees, gunmen and motorists.”

As officers interact daily with the community, they face situations in which they must make instant decisions regarding how to successfully resolve conflict. This training was designed to simulate many of those often stressful experiences.

“The scenarios are designed to put officers in situations where they have to decide what type of force, if any, would be appropriate. The levels of force included mediation, hands on, taser, OC spray or firearm. In a scenario such as the active shooter, the officers actually arrived on a scene with an armed suspect who had fired on victims and taken hostages. In another scenario, officers were ambushed when arriving on scene,” Mathews said. “In these cases, we wanted to see how the officers would react. In other words, in the active shooter, would they go towards the threat? When they were ambushed and fired upon, we wanted to see if they would react appropriately – whether they would secure the residence and notify SRT, which is the Specialized Response Team. In this type of training, we encourage the officers to handle the decision making themselves. In other words, the instructors don’t play an active role in the scenarios. We merely observe and evaluate.”

While GPD officers routinely train for the job, this was the first time the media has been included as active participants. Asked what led to that decision, Mathews said, “Based on the current political climate impacting police departments nationwide, we thought it would be a good idea to allow the media to participate in a similar class that put them in similar scenarios that a police officer could encounter on a day-to-day basis to give them an idea of how fast situations evolve and how fast the decision making process occurs.”

From an instructor’s perspective, he said the Judgmental Use of Force training for officers and the Citizen Police Encounters and Use of Force training for the media were successful.

“It gave us an opportunity to interact with the media in a new way, and we received positive feedback from all the media that attended,” he said. “The media reports on use of force incidents, and oftentimes, reporters don’t have firsthand knowledge or understanding of what goes into an officer’s decision to use force, and what type or degree of force to use. We hope this training gave our local media a better understanding of what it’s like to be in an officer’s shoes and have to make a split second decision.”

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