“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
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.