Could you handle the pressure of a law enforcement situation?

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 4/18/24

Participants of the Bristol Police Department's Citizens Police Academy found out during a virtual simulation of encounters that police officers could come across during any given day on the job.

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Could you handle the pressure of a law enforcement situation?


Shouts, threats, and occasional gunfire echoed from the garage at the Bristol Police station last Thursday night — ironically juxtaposed along with the sounds of laughter.

It was the last night of the Citizens Police Academy, and participants were experiencing one of the most immersive activities in the course, designed to let residents enter the world of police work and get a little taste of what it is officers do every day.

In today’s world, increasingly police departments are placing an emphasis on not just firearms training for their officers, but also on judgmental training. The ability fire a gun with discretion — only after deploying their best efforts at conflict resolution — has become more crucial than ever.

On this night, the Firearms Training System (FATS) was set up in the garage to give Citizens Academy participants a little sense of what it might be like to be in a real-life situation where force may (or may not) be necessary.

“This immersive training exercise provides participants with valuable insights into the challenges and decision-making processes involved in law enforcement,” said Sgt. Ricardo Mourato, who runs the Academy every year. “By experiencing simulated scenarios firsthand, participants gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of police work and the importance of effective communication and de-escalation techniques.”

Run by Ptlm. John Mylnek and Lt. Steven St. Pierre, the simulator utilizes digital interactive training technology, operated by an officer who can adjust the simulation based on the trainee’s response to the on-screen situation. A range of scenarios, including an active shooter in an office, a possible domestic violence situation, an upset teenager in a music class, and a trespasser in the woods were presented to participants with no police training (beyond what they had already learned at the Academy) with predictably uneven results.

“So, is it unusual for a person to walk out of a kitchen holding a knife?” asked St. Pierre after one suspect was violently dispatched by multiple shots. “What could have been said to de-escalate this situation?”

In the very next scenario, however, an active office shooting, hesitation cost an innocent cubicle-dweller her life. It was a stark demonstration of how officers need to be mentally nimble when responding to each and every call.

On balance, participants did a good job at assessing the threats and managing most of the scenarios appropriately. Still, it was an intense night.

“I am certain I could never think that fast on my feet,” said Kristin Amaral. “My husband asked me a while back if I'd like to attend the BPDCA with him…My knee-jerk reaction was ‘no’ because I wasn't sure I could stomach learning about all the 'tough stuff' the PD deals with, like domestic abuse or active threats…It's clear to me why Bristol was just named ‘safest community.’ It's because this team of men and women bring their skills and talents to the table in everything they do. They are aware of the law but proceed with empathy and common sense when dealing with the public.”

“That FATS simulation had my heart racing. It really put into perspective the tough decisions officers have to make on the spot,” said Melissa Cordeiro, who in addition to taking the course is also Bristol’s Town Clerk. “I’ve always appreciated and respected all that law enforcement does, but this experience gave me a behind-the-scenes look that was truly eye-opening…I encourage others to participate if they have the chance.”

2024 by East Bay Media Group

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