Weapons training readies officers for real life scenarios

May 10, 2019

By Pat Maurer

Detective Don VanBonn demonstrates the use of the Taser during virtual weapons training held at the CCSO last week.

Annual weapons training helps officers and county officials with scenarios they could face in dangerous situations.

For four days last week, Clare County Sheriff’s Office Detective Don VanBonn instructed, and Lt. Mike Bailey, Firearms Range Master, supervised weapons training at the department.

“Approximately 100 individuals have participated so far,” said Bailey.
The training is designed for certified officer, corrections officers, court officers and lawyers, reserve officers and even the neighboring Clare City police including regular and reserve officers.

A variety of situations that officers and county officials might face are projected on a screen while participants react to defend themselves with both actual Tasers and handguns which are adapted to use laser beams.
The scenarios include all types of situations from a suspect wielding a gun or knife to an incident where a Taser could be used to subdue an aggressive subject.

“Tasers are used for less lethal situations when lethal force isn’t needed for defense. They can be used on combative or assaultive subjects in order to gain compliance if the justification for deadly force is not present,” Bailey said. “If a suspect has the ability to cause great bodily harm or death to another person, the incident would be determined to be a lethal force scenario.”

The use of a Taser sends an electrical charge that causes the suspect’s muscles to seize up and causes him or her to become immobilized.
During the training scenarios, there’s only seconds to respond, aim and fire, as this reporter discovered in a demonstration, where she “died” a couple of times without reacting correctly.

First the officer must try to communicate with the suspect, to get the person to lower a weapon or in the case of a disturbed individual, to respond and communicate with an officer and be restrained safely. If words don’t bring compliance, or a weapon is observed, the situation escalates and force has to be used for the officer’s, or other people’s defense.

There isn’t much time to react. A dangerous person wielding a knife 30 feet away, can cover the seemingly adequate distance in only three seconds, leaving the officer, or in this case reporter, little time to draw, aim and fire (missing the perpetrator entirely).

Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis, who stopped by, said she had also failed the training sessions. “I did two scenarios. You learn how quickly you have to make a decision. In each scenario, I didn’t react quickly enough. I ‘died’ twice,” she said.

“Weapons and Tasers are carried by every officer and used during incidents when appropriate,” Bailey said.

Detective VanBonn said, “The four-day sessions have run from 7 a.m. to nearly midnight, and sometimes even later. We have been trying to get as much training in as possible.”

Bailey said a Meggitt System was loaned to the department and used for the four-day training program. “The computerized system is a virtual shoot-don’t shoot decision making system. “Even the officers sometimes fail at the tests,” he said.

Other training, held regularly for county officers, includes live fire at a gun range; actual guns in “simulated” training where the guns are used with a “conversion kit” to fire paint bullets which are actual bullets with a paint tip.

“The training is important,” Undersheriff Dwayne Miedzianowski said. “Officers have to be ready for any situation. Even a simple situation can evolve into a dangerous one.”

He continued, “Police officers have the right to protect themselves and others using the ‘one plus one’ theory.”

Bailey explained, “The ‘one plus one’ theory of escalation advocates that an officer may use one level of force greater than the level of resistance used by the subject. Officers may escalate to the level of force that is ‘reasonable’ and ‘necessary’ to control the situation, based on the level of resistance encountered.”

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