Training & Transparency: How our local officers train for split-second decisions

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT)  “Shoot, don’t shoot”, chokehold bans, and “shoot to kill”. Those have been debated and questioned for a long time and they’ve been regularly discussed in the past few months. Some say the deadly officer-involved shootings in the national spotlight could have been prevented.

We attended Potter County’s Citizen’s Academy shooter training to learn how our local officers are trained to approach these real-life and split-second-decision scenarios.
“Everything going on in front of you and all of this is happening in a split second,” explained Lt. Ken Doughtery with Potter County Sheriff’s Office. “Over the years, we have increased our training in realistic type situations.”

Split-second decisions are common in law enforcement and have been brought up in many cases in the national spotlight. Here locally, the Potter County Sheriff’s Office says they take training their officers for those type of scenarios very seriously.

Lt. Ken Dougherty says he has witnessed first-hand this particular type of shooter training evolve over the decades. He’s also been a part of Potter County’s Sherriff’s Office Citizen Academy, the agency’s effort to be more transparent with the community.

“This gives people an idea when they go through this how fast these decisions are made and how many things can go wrong,” Lt. Dougherty explained.

Class members got insight on how officers are trained to approach real-life scenarios such as traffic stops and domestic violence incidents.

“I mean there is no way for anybody who has never been is a situation like this to completely understand what these officers are going through.”

Casey Rogers, Citizen’s Avademy Student

Dougherty says when it comes to preparing officers for these split-second decisions, training is important.

“Training, knowledge, and experience is always the key that makes everything easier to make that decision but it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been in this, if you get thrown in one of those situations it goes down so fast that it’s training you go back to you revert to what you were trained to do,” Dougherty added. “Does it get easier? Probably not. But do you have more experience to rely on? Yes.”

DIGITAL EXTRA: Deputy KC Simpson explains some of the protocols officers in the state have to follow during traffic stops.

Local defense attorney, Ryan Brown, has worked on several criminal and civil cases involving local law enforcement.

“There’s no amount of training that’s going to fix this,” Brown said. “In our practice, we hear every week of people that are brutalized by police all around here that are beat up… shot.”

Dougherty says over the years their men and women have gotten away from using certain physical techniques.

“I’m saying that a lot of the things you’re seeing are things that we don’t teach in our academy,” Dougherty added. “We don’t teach certain self-defense tactics to our people and if it’s shown to you we make sure that you understand. That is a last barrier self defense move that you would have to use deadly force.”

Another question that has come up in cases across the country: “Why do officers shoot to kill versus shooting to wound?”

“I don’t teach anybody how to kill somebody, my whole motivation here or the whole end product is to stop the threat, unfortunately that’s the by-product many

LT. KEN DOUGHERTY, POTTER COUNTY SHERRIF’S OFFICE

“If someone comes out of a car and they’re pointing a gun at you, it’s a whole different world and you’re going to react. To teach somebody how to shoot somebody in the leg when they’re moving and being shot at, that’s not realistic and I’m sorry,” Dougherty added.

“That goes to the core of why people are so angry this is not unfortunate this is a tragedy and it is a tragedy that is preventable,” Local defense attorney Brown said.

Brown doesn’t support the idea of defunding local law enforcement, does believe restructuring is necessary.

DIGITAL EXTRA: Attorney Ryan Brown goes in depth about the Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement and how he thinks it can create more transparency with local law enforcement.

“It’s not really defunding the police, to me, it’s saying we expect too much of our police officers to respond to incidents where someone has a mental health issue that should be a social worker going out there or a domestic violence call,” Brown explained. “We’re talking about restructuring police, giving them help and changing what is expected of them.”

Dougherty says additional help such as providing mental health training and services to officers upfront is starting to become the norm.

“That is coming into the forefront today a lot more than it ever has in the past and there’s is a lot more out there being offered to officers, we teach we teach of course we teach critical incident training we teach how to respond to somebody else in a crisis and so we’re beginning to realize we have to provide that same type training to our own officers that are out there in that situation,” Dougherty said.

DIGITAL EXTRA: Watch more footage from Shardae’s shooter training with Potter County’s Sheriff’s Office.

The citizen academy also provides insight on other subjects such as Potter County’s Crime Scene Unit, Civil Procedure Unit, and Corrections Division. Click here, for more information on signing up.


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