Officers Tina Hall and Dan Roun under the supervision of training officer Tom Ross are responding to a disturbance at Pinellas Park High School where an armed suspect was threatening students. The officers cautiously but quickly walk down the hallway with drawn guns as frightened students run past yelling excitedly that a gunman is behind them.
Moments later, the armed suspect, looking confused with his revolver pointing down at his side, rounds the corner confronting Hall and Roun. Both officers shout repeatedly for the gunman to lay down his weapon. The gunman refuses to comply and raises his weapon toward the officers quickly bringing the confrontation to a dangerous flashpoint.
The officers find what little cover is available and sensing the suspect is preparing to fire, both officers discharge their weapons various times dropping the suspect. The confrontation ends without injury…or worse…to the students or police officers.
Fortunately, this event never occurred in real life. “Officers” Hall and Roun are civilian students enrolled in the nine-week Pinellas Park Police Citizen’s Academy as part of the department’s community outreach program.
The wide screen in front of students indicates the classroom scenario is over, the results are shown of the students’ performance, the number of bullets fired and where hits and misses were scored.
Tom Ross, an ex-cop and instructor for the Pinellas Park High School Criminal Justice Academy, debriefs the participants of Class #22 in their fifth week of the Pinellas Park Police Citizen’s Academy following an exciting hands-on experience with the CJA Firearm Training Simulator (F.A.T.S.).
The sophisticated computer system, pre-programmed with a wide variety of scenarios ranging from domestic disputes and robberies to hostage and kidnapping situations, is used by both the Pinellas Park Police and students in the Criminal Justice Academy high school magnet program along with hundreds of law enforcement agencies throughout the country. F.A.T.S. puts students in real-life confrontations forcing them to make decisions concerning use of force in the safety of a non-lethal training environment.
Earlier, during the three-hour evening class dedicated to Firearms and Use of Force, Lt. Kevin Riley, offered a comprehensive presentation on the use of tasers and other weapons employed by the Pinellas Park Police emphasizing when and how officers are trained to use lethal force. He explained that the use of tasers, while sometimes unfairly receiving poor media attention, has eliminated nearly 70% of the injuries to officers responding to calls.
The class discussed probable cause, civil liability and other issues concerning the use and deployment of tasers. Following careful instruction, each student was given the opportunity to actually fire a taser. Adding a little wry humor to a normally serious subject, Lt. Riley reported there were no volunteers stepping forward to act as “suspect-targets” to be on the receiving end of the non-lethal option to a lethal force.