About 14 years ago, I was part of a media group invited by the FBI for a day of training at Camp Perry in Port Clinton.
On the range, we received handgun instruction, then moved indoors for the same use-of-force training police departments were using. Equipped with a simulated weapon that felt and reacted like the real thing, we could give voice commands, move through the scene and fire. In one scenario, projected on the large screen, a shooter fled down a crowded mall concourse. The participant fired — against regulations — hitting a mall bystander.
In my scenario, a call had come in about an officer in trouble. I was first on the scene. To my right was a wounded officer. Down the alley, a man was lying on the ground with a gun in front of him. As I approached, he crept toward it. I yelled — actually yelled: "Don't move. Don't move. Don't move." But each time, he got closer and my heart rate soared. When he touched the weapon, I fired — everything in my magazine. The man was still moving. I tried to reload, but my adrenaline got the better of me. I'd forgotten how. I fumbled with the pistol, hoping to figure it out. Then the lights went on.
I'd been very accurate on the range, but only four shots were on target here. The instructor asked how long it took to empty my weapon. "30 seconds? A minute?" I guessed. It had taken less than 10 seconds. Had I been able to reload, I would have fired again.
Back then, the nation wondered how three New York City officers could've fired 41 times on Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant from Guinea. That's how it could happen, the instructor said.
I can't help but think about that this month as I read senior editor Erick Trickey's "Shots Fired." While I understand how 137 shots happened, I just have trouble understanding why.
My FBI experience has stuck with me. And that's the point. It was a training exercise, meant to be oft-repeated and remembered. When a situation arises and an officer is forced to react, training is the guidance system that cuts through the stress, overcomes our subconscious biases, eliminates mistakes and keeps everyone safe.
Attorney General Mike DeWine's call to review officer training statewide, especially in the case of identifying an active shooter, is an important first step. "Law enforcement officers have a sworn duty to protect the public," he told the police training commission. "At the same time, though, they have the right to return home safely after their shift is done."