On a day highlighted by key decisions related to how law enforcement officers perform under pressure, members of several media outlets across the Rock Hill and Charlotte region got a chance to role-play different scenarios officers face.
Here was one:
Frenzied shouts echoed across a room as an acting deputy nervously crept through the door of a dimly lit home. There were few details on the call: a domestic dispute. But that was all the acting officer knew.
Stepping into the home, she called out, “Sheriff’s Office! Calm down, sir!”
The man, in the throes of a lover’s quarrel, would not calm down. Instead, he pulled what appeared to be a gun and took aim at the deputy. She fired her service weapon and wounded the man, who fell to the floor.
The scenario ended.
The man rose to his feet and wiped a small splotch of paint from his arm.
“You fired at me when all I had was a toy?” the real deputy asked. He showed the acting deputy what clearly was a wooden toy.
The York County Sheriff’s third annual media police academy was an opportunity for journalists to better understand the thought processes of officers as they tackle such varied events as traffic stops, chase sequences and 911 calls.
Police are subjected to tremendous pressure on a daily basis as they work with members of the public, “many of which we’re meeting on their worst days,” said Josh Solomon, training sergeant with the York County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ve got to make decisions, and we’ve got to make it now,” Solomon said.
He praised the swift actions earlier this week of law enforcement officers when they responded to an attack on the campus of Ohio State University that injured several people.
“When the crap hits the fan, there are always people willing to stand up for others,” he said.
Journalists went through several other scenarios, including pulling over vehicles with unruly or potentially dangerous passengers. Deputies showed members of the media how to best shield a service weapon from those who try to grab it away from their belts and how to react to those who are attacking from a point of strength.
“We go through training that makes us believe everyone has a gun and is out to get us. Every day is the potential for danger,” Faris said. “We’re just trying to keep everyone safe and make sure everyone can go home safely.”
Recent protests over police killings have led to unrest across the nation, including in Charlotte with the death of Keith Lamont Scott and in Charleston where Walter Scott was fatally shot.
A Mecklenburg County District Attorney said Wednesday morning that Brentley Vinson, the officer who fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott last September, would not face charges.
A former police officer testified Tuesday that he felt fear before shooting motorist Walter Scott, who fled after a traffic stop in North Charleston in April 2015.
Both shootings involved black victims, and that has intensified the debate about racial bias in law enforcement.
Outgoing York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant told reporters he would fire “on the spot” any officers who showed bias of any kind in their police work. Bryant, who led the department for 20 years, will be succeeded by sheriff-elect Kevin Tolson in January.
“I want the media and the public to know, law enforcement’s not bad,” Bryant said. “What bothers me is to think that any people would feel badly about this noble profession.”
And members of the media got an up-close view.
In another scenario, a man was pulled over for speeding. The man, played by Faris, quickly thrust his driver’s license in the direction of an acting deputy. The sudden move caused the acting deputy to quickly reach for her gun.
She later said she was frightened because she thought the driver was reaching for a gun on the passenger seat.
The lesson, she said: Police officers try their best to keep situations under control, even in unpredictable and unsure situations.
“Stress changes everything,” Solomon said. “We try our best to be as controlled as we can.”