Use of force training: Loud parties and dummies that won’t listen


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — On Monday, I’m sure I got killed — maybe twice. But so did many of the others at the Grand Rapids Police Department “use of force” training exercise.

The department opened its training to city employees, community members and a handful of reporters.

The day-long training was intense and, at times, left me shaking, wondering if I should have pulled that gun, or opened fire, or if I’d be going home.

“Everybody to the ground, everybody to the ground, everybody don’t move,” barked Grand Rapids City Commissioner Senita Lenear, drawing a fake Glock from her holster. She was my partner for this exercise. We were called to a loud party.

The videotaped scenario is playing out on the wall in front of us.

Turns out, the partiers had guns — and opened fire.

The commissioner and I returned lots of gunfire.

My bad day continued — when I engaged in a hand-to-hand battle with a dummy who refused to listen. He had a knife. I’m sure he also killed me.

But, I was fairly effective with the baton — striking a bad guy repeatedly in the right thigh to take him down.

“You got him in his hip bone,” the instructor announced. “You got him on the elbow, one on the hand.”

“You broke my hand, my hip and my arm,” the bad guy moaned, before threatening to sue.

On the surface, the instructors tell me, it might look like I used excessive force, except it’s hard to hit a moving target.

For police, this training is about using reasonable force — just enough to match the bad guy’s resistance. They start with words, but it can eventually lead to pepper spray, a kick, a punch, an expandable baton, a Taser or, as a last resort, a Glock.

Police said they hope the exercise demonstrates their training.

“A better understanding of just what it involves being a police officer, how situations rapidly change and rapidly evolve and how much training goes into becoming a police officer and how fast we have to make decisions — and then have to live with those decisions,” Sgt. John Dorer said.

Grand Rapids police said they use force in less than 1 percent of calls. Of the 15,000 arrests they make a year, they said, they seriously injure two to four suspects.

On Monday, it was Commissioner Lenear who chased down an officer posing as a burglar, in the dark. The fake burglar fell to the ground, and then opened fire.

Lenear emptied her fake Glock.

“I shot that many times because I wanted to walk away,” she said.

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