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Phoenix police training shows difficult on-the-job decisions

PHOENIX — The use of deadly force is on everyone’s mind nowadays. But do police get much time to make those decisions? Most of the time, no.

During a recent class with the Phoenix Police Department, I learned all about force – “physical power used against somebody,” according to tactical trainer Sgt. James Ward – and how courts must review cases involving use of deadly force.

“We’re not judging [the case] based on hey, two years later we can look at how they acted, and how they interacted. We need to look at the perception of that officer, at that time.”

These days, Ward said, it’s all about de-escalation and communication – especially with the mentally ill. However, there may be times when deadly force is necessary…and teaching young recruits the difference is crucial.

All new police recruits get plenty of practice putting this theory into practice.

For example, they may have to coax a suicidal person with a knife out of a yard. Or, try to figure out what that stranded motorist is doing. That’s one you don’t go into unprepared – lest that driver has other ideas.

Staring down the wrong end of a Glock – even though it only shoots tiny paintballs – talk about almost fudging the underwear.

Police officers don’t face modified Glocks daily. They face the real thing – and have to prepare themselves to make a decision that could affect them the rest of their lives.

Even a drunk person can present problems. I’m just 5’2” tall, and that actor in the video was at least 6’2”. A man that size could easily break all the bones in a female officer’s face, or the armbone of a male officer.

The bottom line? Until you’re in that situation, it’s best to leave the investigation of deadly-force incidents to the pros.

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