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Watch Use-of-force training in Omaha shows challenges faced by law enforcement officers | Local News – Latest News

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Watch Use-of-force training in Omaha shows challenges faced by law enforcement officers | Local News – US Latest News Online


By the time I raised my Glock, it was too late.

My partner had been stabbed by a man armed with a knife.

Then the lights came back up and I happily handed over the handgun, which was loaded only with a laser and C02 magazine.

The simulation was part of a Thursday news media training event hosted by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The training was conducted at the Omaha Public Safety Training Center.

The session was designed to teach members of the news media about proper use of force by law enforcement officers. I was joined by World-Herald photographer Chris Machian and a reporter from a Des Moines TV station.

The goal of the class was to educate and inform the public through members of the news media, said Jim Balthazar, a senior special agent with the ATF who helped lead the session.







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Jason Cvitanov, an Omaha police officer and training instructor, talks about use-of-force training Thursday. His talk was part of a class to teach news media members about officers’ proper use of force. 




Omaha was one of about 50 cities where Balthazar and Paul Massock, deputy chief of ATF’s Special Operations Division, are holding the class.

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Massock outlined the definition of “use of force” and provided background on two cases that set the standard for when and how officers are justified in using force.

We saw videos from body cameras and dash cameras that showed how quickly situations can escalate. On one traffic stop, a civilian and officers appeared calm. But 1.15 seconds after joining officers behind the vehicle, the man shot two officers and fled.

Balthazar explained reaction times, shooting speed and de-escalation before we headed to the training center’s VirTra simulator. The simulator displays realistic video scenarios on multiple screens. Instructors have multiple options for modifying the scenarios at different points.

I had never held a gun before, let alone fired one, so I was surprised by its heft. It took me a few tries to get the correct grip.

The screen went black and I heard a garbled dispatch call “sending” me to a disturbance in a front yard. When my virtual car pulled up, I saw my “partner” in the video already breaking up a fight between two men.

One of the men ran inside the house while three women stood by the front porch. My partner continued talking to the man on the lawn. The man told my partner that he and the person with whom he was fighting were just “playing around.”

Meanwhile, the women started bickering and hollering at my partner. Then the man who had gone inside the house ran out the front door brandishing a knife. The women held him back as my partner put the man on the lawn in handcuffs.

I tried to tell the man with the knife to drop it, but the order may have come out as a whisper. Or I may not have said it out loud at all.

I thought, “Do I raise my gun? If I shoot now, do I risk hitting the bystanders?”







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World-Herald reporter Kelsey Stewart participates in use-of-force training Thursday at the Omaha Public Safety Training Center. The classes are being held in about 50 cities.




Then Knife Guy was on the move, heading toward my partner.

“Do I shoot now? What if I hit my partner? What if I hit the man who is handcuffed on the ground?”

None of my questions mattered, though, because my partner was stabbed and the screen went dark.

I’m a chronic overthinker. And this situation left me frozen.

It gave me a glimpse of what might be running through an officer’s mind on any given call, especially ones where force could be necessary.

My classmates, meanwhile, were able to rattle off three shots each. One took down a man who was shooting at them from a truck. The other shot a man attempting to carry a gun into a City Hall.

My virtual partner eventually will wake up again, unscathed, in the same virtual scenario. (Sorry again, partner.)

But law enforcement officers don’t have that same guarantee.

“When it comes to deadly force — law enforcement or military — it’s the ultimate pass/fail environment,” Balthazar said. “The consequences are very high, everything from being fired, being sued, charged criminally or possibly being killed.”



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