NAACP

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“I loved that we had an op­por­tu­nity to hear and talk and dis­cuss about Tasers and get the real truth,” she con­tin­ued. “And the sim­u­la­tor, oh wow. I have a whole new ap­pre­ci­a­tion and re­spect for law en­force­ment. I did be­fore, but it was re­newed today.”

Sher­iff Troy Berry (D) feels that it’s im­por­tant to share in­for­ma­tion with com­mu­nity lead­ers in or­der to re­in­force a foun­da­tion of mu­tual trust.

“This is ground­break­ing train­ing and ex­po­sure that the NAACP has been al­lowed to re­ceive at the sher­iff’s of­fice, in re­gards to the open­ness and trans­parency,” Berry told the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent. “It went back to sev­eral months ago when the sher­iff’s of­fice of­fered con­flict res­o­lu­tion train­ing to our en­tire staff, em­brac­ing the di­ver­sity in our com­mu­nity.”

“The train­ing that we’re giv­ing our staff mem­bers is no se­cret. We wanted to make sure that we’re out mak­ing pos­i­tive am­bas­sadors with the NAACP, ex­pos­ing them to the train­ing that our staff mem­bers re­ceive,” Berry con­tin­ued. “I think the NAACP was able to re­ceive a snap­shot, a mere snap­shot, in re­gards to what the of­fi­cers in the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice go through on a daily ba­sis.”

To be­gin the day, the sher­iff made his rounds, thank­ing the NAACP mem­bers in at­ten­dance be­fore he gave an over­view of what the group would soon ex­pe­ri­ence.

“What we do in law en­force­ment is fast and fluid some­times,” Berry told them. “You will see. Your blood pres­sure goes up, you start to sweat … We’re try­ing to recre­ate what they’re go­ing to see on the street.”

“My blood pres­sure is up al­ready,” replied Wil­son in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the police sim­u­la­tor.

But be­fore the sim­u­la­tor came Cpl. Gary Owen’s pre­sen­ta­tion on Tasers. Owen ex­plained how the de­vice op­er­ates and dis­pelled a lot of myths that are as­so­ci­ated with its de­ploy­ment.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, when a per­son is tasered, they do not re­ceive the full 50,000 volts, a num­ber that is of­ten high­lighted by main­stream me­dia, he said. Once the twin darts regis­ter a clean hit, the de­vice will au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just the volt­age to about 1,100 volts for a du­ra­tion of five sec­onds, just enough time for as­sist­ing of­fi­cers to hand­cuff the de­tainee be­fore the sub­ject feels “in­stant relief.”

Owen also dis­cussed how the Taser will not in­ter­fere with the tar­geted-per­son’s heart, even if they have a pace­maker.

A NAACP mem­ber, John Ash­burn, vol­un­teered to get tasered. Rather than punc­tur­ing his skin with the darts, of­fi­cers taped them to his leg be­fore ad­min­is­ter­ing the shock, guid­ing his de­scent to the floor.

“I feel fine,” he said shortly af­ter, adding that it felt like he just went on a run.

Owens also ex­plained that of­fi­cers are trained to rec­og­nize warn­ing signs of a po­ten­tial ar­rest-re­lated death. There has been no sci­en­tific proof to at­tribute the use of a taser to the death of a de­tainee, and many times that per­son was al­ready “on their way out,” hav­ing over­dosed on drugs.

When a per­son shows those warn­ing signs, “You’ve got to switch gears at that point,” said Capt. Kevin Leahy.

“We’re go­ing to get this per­son to the hospital as quickly as pos­si­ble,” added Maj. David Saunders.

Af­ter the taser demon­stra­tion, the group was led to the highly an­tic­i­pated judg­men­tal shoot­ing ex­er­cise.

Wil­liam Brax­ton, le­gal re- dress chair of the NAACP, vol­un­teered to go first.

Brax­ton was given a court­room sce­nario by firearm in­struc­tors Ricky Ni­chols who con­trolled the sim­u­la­tor from a com­puter.

Af­ter giv­ing his fic­ti­tious tes­ti­mony, Brax­ton was con­fronted by a gun­man who sud­denly burst through the door, fir­ing shots at by­standers be­fore di­rect­ing his aim at the hon­orary of­fi­cer. Brax­ton, how­ever, was not able to hit his tar­get be­fore it was too late.

Wil­son also tried the sim­u­la­tor, but did not fair much bet­ter. She said the ex­pe­ri­ence re­ally put into per­spec­tive just how dan­ger­ous a police of­fi­cer’s job can be.

“Un­til you are put in that situation to have to make those de­ci­sions, you don’t re­ally know what they go though over and over and over again,” she said. “Be­cause when you think about the life de­ci­sions they have to make in sec­onds, lit­er­ally sec­onds; I have a real re­spect for the work they do.”

Later, back at CCSO head­quar­ters, the NAACP was pro­vided lunch as they watched a new re­cruit­ment

STAFF PHOTOS BY ANDREW RICHARD­SON

Pres­i­dent of the Charles County NAACP branch, Jan­ice Wil­son, hides be­hind cover dur­ing the judg­men­tal shoot­ing sim­u­la­tor.

NAACP mem­bers gather around Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice firearms in­struc­tor Ricky Ni­chols as he con­trols a shoot­ing sim­u­la­tor re­motely.

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