Excessive use of force is one of the main criticisms police officers across the nation face, especially lately after the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by an officer.
On Saturday, the National City Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department gave members of the community an inside look at their use of force training exercises, where NBC 7 got a first-hand peek into situations law enforcement officials face in the field.
Officers took civilians through several different training scenarios including walking participants through a domestic violence call and traffic stop to see how they would respond in situations that may require the use of force.
You see it all the time on TV and in movies but for National City police, high-stress situations are part of their daily duties.
Participants of the “Use Of Force” training workshop started training with a firearms simulation where they interacted with suspects on a screen. Participants were forced to make split-second decisions based on what they saw on the screen that could mean life or death.
Some suspects produced weapons and would advance on participants. The officers taught participants different ways to eliminate the threat.
“You have to think quick. You have to think, first, ‘How am I going to protect myself?’” said participant Ditas Yamane.
A lesson NBC 7 reporter Liberty Zabala learned while conducting a simulated traffic stop.
In that training scenario, the driver was fully cooperative. However, Zabala failed to notice the armed passenger in the back.
And it cost her.
“I got hurt!" said Zabala after being shot with a BB gun.
Another participant, Jacqueline Reynoso said the experience has opened her eyes.
“We hope that officers act in the appropriate manner and that excessive force isn't used if it's not necessary, but understanding that there are situations you know a police officer is a human being,” says Reynoso. “He's thinking about his family, about the safety of the community and that may call for use of force in certain situations."