MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) - There have been a lot of shootings involving police officers in Tennessee this year.
There has been 21 in the state so far, 10 of in Middle Tennessee. Five of the shootings have been in Nashville.
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Homelessness, mental illness, and crime. It’s a combination that expe…
In the immediate aftermath, there are always questions about whether the officer should have pulled the trigger.
News4 went to the Murfreesboro Police Department to see how officers are trained to make the difficult decision: shoot or don’t shoot.
Murfreesboro Police use VIRTRA, an omni directional, interactive simulator used to train police officers.
There are tons of scenarios and they feel extremely realistic.
With a click, the person running it can change the situation based on the officer’s actions.
The point is to learn how to de-escalate situations.
“The vast majority of police officers in American never shoot anyone,” said Murfreesboro Police Capt. Don Fanning. “I tell you what we do every day. We talk to people. We talk to a lot of people who are in a crisis.”
The training doesn’t just involve simulator guns.
Officers can also spray or use a shock gun.
A big part of it is knowing what to use and when.
“You have to look at every situation as they unfold with their own sets of facts,” said Fanning.
Some of the scenarios help train officers to deal with the mentally ill.
Others train officers on how to handle people living with autism.
In every scenario, the question they hope to avoid is “shoot or don’t shoot.”
“In today’s world, everybody is going to look at what we do. Rightfully so, right? But that’s a big deal, especially if we’re talking about using lethal force on somebody,” said Fanning. “It’s always a big deal trying to make that decision, not ‘can I,’ but ‘do I need to.’”
The Murfreesboro Police Department let News4 try VIRTRA.
“Remember, when you talk to people, loud, verbal commands,” said Fanning.
The first time the reporter ran away. The second time she wrongfully shot the suspect when he had his hands in the air.
Murfreesboro Police officers spend several months at the training academy. They spend another eight weeks just doing VIRTRA. Then 15 weeks riding with an experienced officer, getting evaluated in 31 categories every day.
“That’s why we do this because we want officers to get it right,” said Fanning.
After just an hour, it was learned that it’s not easy.
“Sometimes it’s in a split second that we’re having to make these decisions, when we don’t have all the information, and things are changing, and there’s chaos going all around,” said Fanning. “Cops aren’t perfect, and there’s nobody in this world that’s perfect. We do the best we can to manage what’s going on in the given moment, and it’s tough,” said Fanning.
Fanning said he wishes officers could get more training. He said a lack of time, money and resources prevents that from happening.
Most police departments don’t have a VIRTRA simulator, which is why, whenever they can, the Murfreesboro Police Department invites other departments in to use it.