Training factors into split-second decisions for law enforcement officers

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) – The decision to use force is a tough decision for police officers; it’s also a decision that an expert who trains and retrains officers says has to be made in seconds.

Jeff Lindsey spent 26 years in the FBI. For the last five years of his career, he’s worked at the University of Tennessee Law Enforcement Innovation Center working with law enforcement agencies around the state to make sure their teams are up to speed on laws, law enforcement practices, and nationwide policing trends.

On Thursday, our cameras were allowed inside the training facility to get a look at the program’s officers goes through. Lindsey explains that agencies across Tennessee send officers to hours of training. There is a class portion and a “real-time” virtual scenario simulator.

That simulator puts officers in situations with all different outcomes to see how and how quickly they respond.

“You change the variables to multiple outcomes,” said Lindsey, “there are so many variables at play when they make a decision.”

But practice makes officers better.

“Sometimes it’s easy to assume that in every single circumstance, every single officer is going to be absolutely perfect in how they respond, and unfortunately that’s not reasonable.” said Lindsey, “There’s no profession, doctors can not be absolutely perfect in the way they respond.”

Lindsey says in cases that involve these fast-paced decisions, it’s important that people remember there is a person behind the badge.

“These folks are dads, moms, cousins, grandparents, sisters, brothers, they’re sons, daughters and they come into that situation with that whole range of human emotions and human experience, the same as the person they are encountering for whatever reason,” said Lindsey.

He says the best officers are the ones who tie into that and really connect with the community they work with.

“When we’re talking de-escalation, one of the biggest things is building that empathy and rapport with an individual,” Lindsey explains, “that is just a basic human concept.”

Lindsey says decisions besides using force require split-second judgment as well. He says officers have to use their own judgment, to take someone into custody, arrest them, or get them other types of help they need.

When asked to comment about the recent events at Austin-East Magnet High School, Lindsey said he couldn’t comment on that but he did say that any use of force by any officer should be examined carefully.

“Every time an officer uses force, it needs to be scrutinized there needs to be transparency and there needs to be accountability,” said Lindsey.

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