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Video Training: Officers shoot man holding knife to hostage

Upon viewing the video of the incident in which Daytona Beach police officers were forced to shoot Jermaine Green while he held a woman hostage at knifepoint, 5 training challenges came to mind

Late last week we got word from the Orlando Sentinel of “dramatic video of Daytona Beach police officers shooting former NFL star Jermaine Green” as he held 37-year-old Katrina Johnson captive against him — in that classic, hostage-target position — and attempted to thrust a knife into her chest.

Officers learned from neighbors that Green had threatened to kill Johnson, so they entered the darkened home with guns drawn and weapon-mounted flashlights illuminated.

Those coppers yelled, “Let her go! Let her go!” but Green pulled Johnson on top of him. For his troubles, the assailant was shot several times — the woman was grazed once in the arm but suffered no major injures (and reportedly gave a statement to police saying she feared for her life during Green’s assault).

Green — who has apparently been arrested nine times for a variety of offences incidents including criminal mischief and domestic battery — has now been charged with one felony count of aggravated battery. Check out the video, and then pick back up with this brief analysis below.

5 Questions to Consider
Setting aside the fact that this was a tremendous and heroic effort by those Daytona Beach cops — this was as flawless as it can get in a rapidly-unfolding deadly-force encounter as we may ever see. My brothers, you did amazing work on that call, and I salute you for it!

Setting aside for the moment the dubiousness of calling this 32-year-old former player an “NFL star” — he was drafted by the New York Giants in 2004, but was released by the team after training camp), we can glean some training value from the video of that shooting released by the Daytona Beach PD.

Training points not about the performance of the LEOs in the video — which, as I said, was awesome — but about ourselves.

Consider a few questions. Ask them of yourself, and ask them of your fellow officers around you.

1.) Do you go to the range regularly to train, or merely to qualify?
2.) Do you incorporate enough low-light situations into your training?
3.) Do you have access to firearms simulators as part of your training?
4.) Do you use Simunition / Airsoft / SIRT force-on-force scenarios in training?
5.) Do you train to hit a “less than ideal target” like was presented in this video?

Getting Great Training
If you’ve read this far, I know for a fact that you’re not one of those coppers who goes to the range twice a year just to qualify — you’re serious about your skills and your training — but I bet you know someone on the department who fits that description. Do what you can to help them find the motivation to become better at their craft, but perhaps more importantly, retain your focus on your own continuing education.

On the question of low-light training: Whenever you get the opportunity to participate in low-light, live-fire training, make every possible effort to be there. Some agencies don’t put an emphasis on this training, despite the fact that a lot of officer-involved shootings happen in low light.

A report by San Diego County District Attorney’s Office entitled “Officer-Involved Shooting Review, 1996 - 2006” — which looked at 200 OIS cases over the span of that decade — stated that “While shooting incidents occurred during all times of the day and night, most were late night or evening...”

Further, a 2010 report from San Francisco Police Department entitled “Officer-Involved Shootings: A Five-Year Study” indicated that of the 15 OIS incidents examined, 10 occurred between 2000 hours and 0400 hours.

I won’t dwell too much on the questions of simulators and force-on-force. If your agency doesn’t have a simulator, you as an individual officer may not have a whole lot you can do about that. If your agency doesn’t even want to invest in Sims rounds or a few Airsoft guns for training, you’re probably going to have to do those things on your own time and your own dime.

I will say that it’s been my observation that if formal firearms training is only conducted a few times a year, simulators can fill that gap. Simulators enable agencies to have constant access to realistic shooting scenarios that keep their officers proficient. I’ve also observed that the use of Sims rounds, Airsoft guns, and SIRT guns in force-on-force training is incomparable when it comes to putting officers into the type of stress they’re likely to encounter in a real gunfight.

No. It’s NOT the same — there’s nothing else that comes even close to the real thing, and I will not purport that there is — but those training tools are invaluable.

Last item: Shooting a less-than-ideal target. As we see from this video, the available target area for those officers was quite small. And it was moving. And it was behind an innocent victim. We spend a lot of time putting holes in paper, hitting that X-ring and feeling pretty good about it. In recent years I’ve tried to integrate into my range time things like steel pendulums and bouncing ground targets from companies like Do-All Outdoors. They’re small, they move around, and they’re a hell of a lot more challenging than shooting at a piece of paper stapled to some wood.

Before I get out of here for the day, I have one last question for you: Does your department have on-officer cameras like were present on the cops who had to deal with the Jermaine Green incident? If not, what do you plan to do about it?

Doug Wyllie writes police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community. Doug was a co-founder of the Policing Matters podcast and a longtime co-host of the program.