The Daily Norwalk – Cops Get Shoot/Don’t Shoot Training
by Nancy Chapman 02/25/11
NORWALK – Four shots were fired early Thursday afternoon in Veterans Park. Seven minutes later, there were more — you could hear five shots near Liberty Square.
Not to worry. The rounds were fired by members of the Norwalk Police Department who were sharpening their skills in the back of a truck trailer. It’s a new form of training that Officer Louis Proto called “excellent.”
Inside a non-descript white trailer parked near the Washington Avenue drawbridge, virtually every officer in the department spent about an hour facing 16 to 20 shoot/don’t shoot scenarios. Video clips were projected onto a screen at the far end of the trailer, and officers responded as if their eyes were the video camera. Using their service revolvers, they had to decide whether to shoot or not. Sometimes they opted for Tasers. Sometimes they simply used their communications skills.
In one scenario, a man held a knife to a baby’s head. Officers needed to decide whether to try to shoot the man and risk injuring the baby.
“You get a lot of thoughts racing through. You have to make quick decisions, use your focus, your judgment, common sense,” said Proto, an officer for two years. “And you always fall back on your training. It was excellent, I wish we had more of it.”
It’s the first time the NPD has gone through the training. The trailer was provided and staffed by Blue Line Corporation at a cost of $15,000. Chief Harry Rilling arranged for its visit using asset forfeiture funds. “We used the money we took from the drug dealers to help train our officers to be better prepared for what they might confront out in an actual situation,” Rilling said.
It was Rilling who was shooting early Wednesday afternoon, with his son. “This is the kind of scenario where even though you know it’s not real it gets your adrenaline pumping, your heart is beating a little bit faster because you don’t know what you’re going to see and you know that you’re going to be called upon to make a decision as to whether to shoot or not shoot. After the scenario, the firearms instructor will then talk to you about your decision.”
Proto said the best part was using his service revolver, a Sig Sauer P229, instead of a laser gun or other substitute. “They try to make it as real as possible,” he said.
Lt. Brian Cunningham, head of the training division, said officers used practice ammo. The bullets went through paper used as a screen. The image froze so instructors could see where the shots went. The holes were then covered with white tape. The trailer features a ballistic lining, noise reduction and anti-ricochet surroundings.
Instructors took notes and kept records of the officers’ performance. Everyone went while they were on duty, so no overtime costs were incurred. Jerry Tilbor of Blue Line stayed on site for 12-hour shifts, varying them so officers working the night shift or on the weekend could get their training in.
The trailer was on site for 10 days. Thursday was its last day. There are 800 scenarios available for training and instructors chose the ones most likely to be relevant locally.
“There were some incidents that could have gone either way,” Proto said. “There were some situations where we could have taken a shot — we had every right to — some we didn’t have to. When you’re after somebody, a felon like that, things can happen in a blink of an eye. You have seconds to react sometimes. That’s why it’s very important to stay focused.”
Would you like to try the indoor shooting range?