"Shoot, don't shoot." It's a scenario law enforcement officers have to be prepared to face every time they answer a call. They never really know what trouble may lie ahead, even on what might be considered the simplest, or routine calls. Dave Jordan found that out first hand when he tackled the "shoot, don't shoot" drill at Pitt Community College's basic law enforcement training program.
The real-life computer simulated testing first had Dave stop a vehicle for driving in an erratic manner. The driver doesn't have his license or registration, and decides to angrily step out of the vehicle. The voice from the suspect on the movie-like screen in front of him calls out, "Why don't you go stop someone who needs to be stopped. Dave orders the driver to step in front of the car.
While Dave tries to stay in control and diffuse the situation, It quickly escalates as the passenger steps out of the vehicle and is very belligerent and out of control.
The passenger calls out, "I'm tired of this constant harassment." Dave urges him to get back in his car. The passenger ignores the commands and pulls out a gun. Dave reacts by firing first and striking the passenger.
Jeff Robinson, Director of Public Safety Training at PCC says, "Your first shot actually was a fatal shot based on looking at the red dot which shows it was a fatal shot and that was an awesome shot because it hit him in the upper chest area and he was not able to get a shot off, so in a real life situation, and those circumstances, this is the outcome we would want, so good shot."
But Dave found out it doesn't always happen like that. Dispatched to a dark alley where two men are assaulting another, a suspect ignores Dave's calls to put the knife down and stabs the victim. Robinson says, "The best you could do is give strong firm commands, get em to get their hands away from their body and go from there. Dave asks about calling for backup? "Oh, yes sir immediately and that's the other part of the scenario. We don't want anyone to go in there by themselves."
It is all part of what the recruits learn as they go through police academy training at PCC so they'll be able to keep you and themselves safe when they hit the streets.
Being a member of law enforcement can be one of the most dangerous jobs out there. This past year we've had two killed in the line of duty in eastern Carolina. Yet despite the danger, plenty of people still want to put on the badge. Dave Jordan headed out to Pitt Community College's basic law enforcement training program to find out what motivates them to want to put their life on the line.
Twenty year-old Garrett Hardin and 22 year-old Chelsea Sanders are both recruits in the program. Sanders graduates in May from ECU with a criminal justice degree, and hopes to eventually become an undercover officer or detective. "Being on the streets is good but I'd rather be at the crime scene, investigating the homicide or working in a bar, doing drug raids and stuff." Hardin gave up his job working for a lawyer in Morehead City. Now he's working to pursue his dream of putting on the Highway Patrol uniform. "I never used to be one to study but i find my nose in the book every night until i fall asleep."
Jeff Robinson, Director of Public Safety Training at PCC, says the combined 55 people in the day and night academy's is a record spring enrollment. "You got to have your calling. It's like being in the military, or astronaut...It's their calling."
Robinson says the recruits will go through 17 weeks of training, which includes classroom instruction, time on a "shoot, don't shoot" computer-simulator program, a driving simulator, and firing range.
While both Hardin and Sanders say becoming a law enforcement officer is their passion, they also know the dangers. Sanders says, "My mom's pretty scared. She's nervous about it. But she's just happy that I'm happy doing it." Hardin says, "Every mom worries but I think she realizes how safe of a person I am and how I carry myself."
It's the training the recruits get at PCC's Police Academy that Robinson believes will help keep them safe as the serve and protect. "If we don't do it who will...and that's our belief. Use your training, go out and patrol and protect the citizens."
Once the recruits get that law enforcement certification they're eligible to be hired by any law enforcement agency in the state. That agency may have other requirements for them to fulfill, as well as put them through their own training program.