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Deputies train to hone judgment in shooting situation

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Richmond County sheriff's Deputy Rolf Cramer approached a suspect at his shop Tuesday, telling him he had a warrant for his arrest.

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Deputy Sheriff Instructor Jerry Rhoden sets up a scenario on a simulation game as Deputy Rolf Cramer prepares for action.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Deputy Sheriff Instructor Jerry Rhoden sets up a scenario on a simulation game as Deputy Rolf Cramer prepares for action.


Back turned, the man angrily swung around to face Deputy Cramer and shifted a large hammer between his hands. Muttering, he turned his back again to the officer before pivoting and lunging forward with the weapon.

Bang.

With split-second reaction time, Deputy Cramer shot the suspect in the chest. There was no blood or panic at the scene as the video simulation shut down and the officer reviewed his performance.

"When I first did it, I was nervous to do it even though it was a video game," said Deputy Cramer, a 17-year veteran of law enforcement.

The exercise is part of a "shoot-don't shoot" drill that all deputies-in-training must complete four hours of to earn their police certification. The simulation is meant to prepare officers for hostile situations and help them judge when to use force against a suspect.

There have been five shootings by Richmond County deputies in the past year -- four of them fatal. The most recent happened last week when three narcotics officers were involved in the shooting death of Michael C. Nestor, who they said tried to run one of the officers over with his car.

A week earlier, officers shot Terry Ramsey when they responded to a call and found him threatening his wife with a knife to her throat.

Capt. Ray Myers, who leads training for Richmond County deputies, said officers are trained to address a variety of violent situations and learn how to make the best decision.

It's a situation no officer wants to face, he said.

"It's like I tell our guys, if you make a bad decision, the only thing I can't take back is a bullet," Capt. Myers said. "For God's sake, if you feel like it's wrong, don't do it."

A deputy-in-training must complete an 11-week program, or 408 hours, to be certified and earn the approval of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. During that training, 16 hours of instruction in judgmental police training must be taken, said Lt. John Young, an instructor for the Georgia Public Safety Training Center's regional police academy in Augusta.

There is overlap in many of the other areas cadets study, such as 40 hours of firearm training and crowd control in potentially violent situations, Lt. Young said.

"It's sort of a theme that is continually enforced as we go through additional blocks," he said.

During the video simulation portion of training, the students sometimes are confronted with situations that appear similar at first but are meant to elicit different reactions.

For example, in one scenario a man becomes agitated while being arrested at a bar and reaches into his pocket for a gun. In another situation that starts the same way, the man reaches into his pocket for his wallet.

Deputy Cramer did not shoot at the suspect in the second scenario, saying he watched the man's hands and could determine he was not going for a suspicious item.

Each deputy reacts differently to the simulator, which is why training officers review the performance afterward. Live-action scenarios also are used sometimes to replicate a situation they could face in the field.

"The more we have this training for them, the more aware they are of what to do and how to do it," said Jerry Rhoden, a deputy sheriff instructor for Richmond County. "You can make your mistakes here and walk out."

After being initially certified, the state requires all deputies to undergo 20 hours of annual training, which includes firearm requalification and use of force.

There are some things that can't be replicated during the learning process, Lt. Young said.

"I don't know that we'll ever be able to approach the degree of realism they're going to encounter on the streets," he said.

Reach Erin Zureick at (706) 823-3217 or erin.zureick@augustachronicle.com.

BY THE NUMBERS

408: Total hours for certification by Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council

16: Hours of judgmental police shooting

4: Hours practicing shoot-don't shoot scenarios

40: Hours of firearm training

2: Weeks of post-academy training to review material

16: Weeks with a field training officer

8: Phases to be completed before qualifying to be a "relief" driver for deputies

Comments (20) Add comment
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JerryAtrick
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JerryAtrick 11/25/09 - 02:35 am
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Excellent article! Both with

Excellent article! Both with the facts and especially the timing of it. Thanks again to our LEO's.

Asitisinaug
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Asitisinaug 11/25/09 - 02:47 am
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All of these fine officers

All of these fine officers are forced by others to make split second decisions in order to save their own lives and the lives of others. Second guessing their decisions without having the slightest idea what they go through is ridiculous. Thank goodness the majority of law abiding citizens have a clue and greatly appreciate all that our deputies do for us and the entire community.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/25/09 - 03:10 am
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The AC editorial the other

The AC editorial the other day said they were going to start examining police procedures and past incidents. This is a great start. The training is certainly a good measure. The better trained our officers are, the safer they and the public will be. This is a positive article showing the measures the RCSO takes to do the right thing.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/25/09 - 03:52 am
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Does anyone know if any of

Does anyone know if any of the situations on the simulator involve suspects in vehicles?

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 11/25/09 - 05:50 am
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Good article. This explains

Good article. This explains why the officers knew when and how to react in the 5 shootings. The officers and innocent people survived them all.

confederate american
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confederate american 11/25/09 - 06:53 am
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riverman1-yes it does

riverman1-yes it does

justus4
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justus4 11/25/09 - 06:53 am
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The article: A joke. The
Unpublished

The article: A joke. The number of citizens shot by police will ALWAYS not be advantage to peole of color, which is the reality. Training is ALWAYS the excuse, which is not accepted by the minority community because they have eyes. U want better results: Officers should ALWAYS be randomly drug tested (military does it) and have their mental faculities tested quarterly, then dig into their background associations i.e. militia groups, anti-Americans societies, and just plain bad friends or neighbors. Such actions would demonstrate a serious attempt to maintain highly competent officers with the mental agility to act professional in all situations. However, them there are high standards and will not happen because, according to the article, it's the training. And to that - ha!

CABoatright
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CABoatright 11/25/09 - 06:55 am
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RCSD--Continue doing your
Unpublished

RCSD--Continue doing your usual excellent work. The idiots on the streets will figure it out sooner or later.
Appreciation and respect for each of you.

55 F-100
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55 F-100 11/25/09 - 07:19 am
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Justus, your lack of

Justus, your lack of knowledge about which you speak is mind-boggling. For your information, EVERY Law Enforcement Officer in the state of Georgia is currently subjected to random drug tests and has been subjected to random drug tests for the last 25+ years. Open your eyes, Cuz, the shootings occur due to the criminal actions of the maggot cretins whose actions require the LEO to utilize deadly force.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/25/09 - 07:21 am
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Thanks, ConfederateAmerican.

Thanks, ConfederateAmerican. That's excellent. The more scenarios with people in vehicles under various conditions are used on the simulator, the better the training and results on the street with OUR officers protecting us. Since vehicles often seem to be the impetus to shootings, I'd have even more scenes on the simulator with all kinds of circumstances officers may encounter around vehicles where they have to decide whether to shoot or NOT.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/25/09 - 07:36 am
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ConfederateAmerican, thanks

ConfederateAmerican, thanks again. It appears you have seen these simulations since you said the simulator has situations involving vehicles. I do think the simulator is a fantastic teaching tool to keep the public safe. What does the simulator show as a situation where the officer should not shoot at people in vehicles?

LEO
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LEO 11/25/09 - 08:05 am
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I trained on the simulator

I trained on the simulator when I was with RCSO. It is a very useful training tool. Though it will never completely replicate real life situations, I can think of several instances I was involved in where a split second decision on whether to shoot or not came into play (fortunately in each of those, the situation did not require me to shoot). The training I had on the simulator heightened my awareness of a subject's body movements and behaviors, and how that can be an indication of his next move. If I hadn't had that training, in those instances, who knows what the outcome would have been?

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 11/25/09 - 08:29 am
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well justice, if those who

well justice, if those who are now no longer with us would have complied then they probably still would be here...how come you did intervene and allow elmore, the latest criminal, the one who tried to rob capt d's and the fool that held a knife to his wife throat into your home to feed, clothe and car for. it's a whole lot easier for you to stand on the sidelines and make asinine comments clearly showing your lack of intellect and/or knowledge of how tough their job really is. is you had your way you would give amnesty to each and every thug, low life individual and tell them "it's not your fault, it's the man keeping you down"

AWyld1
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AWyld1 11/25/09 - 09:24 am
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I agree justus....let's

I agree justus....let's random drug test officers...let's also random drug test anyone on the public dole...wait that would be racist to you wouldn't it? Your true colors show everyday.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 11/25/09 - 10:13 am
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It's hard to have true colors

It's hard to have true colors when you mind has an absolute lack of color. (Only one color is the absolute lack of color)!!

trujustis
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trujustis 11/25/09 - 10:30 am
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Justus4 I am going to limit

Justus4 I am going to limit my comments to something you actually know about.

CarlA
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CarlA 11/25/09 - 10:36 am
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The best thing for you do to

The best thing for you do to do is ignore Justass. He only posts one comment and then waits for everyone's reaction. He will not reply to your comments towards him.

chel
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chel 11/25/09 - 10:41 am
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I tell you what Justus4,

I tell you what Justus4, since the officers are already drug tested randomly as most people are who are employed these days, why don't we take that same suggestion you just made and make all the welfare recipients do the same.

JerryAtrick
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JerryAtrick 11/25/09 - 10:45 am
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trujustis - Unfortunately if

trujustis - Unfortunately if you do that, you will never ever post again.

RoadKing
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RoadKing 11/25/09 - 01:37 pm
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hahaha...justass....hahaha,

hahaha...justass....hahaha, on the ignorance scale, your rank is monumental ... hahaha.

corgimom
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corgimom 11/25/09 - 05:03 pm
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Justnuts, all your

Justnuts, all your suggestions are great. Nobody wants bad police officers. Those suggestions, however, will not result in less shootings as long as your "people of color" do things like try to run officers down, put knives to people's throats, or flee when a police officer issues a lawful order to freeze.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/25/09 - 07:52 pm
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Goodness, about 20 posts

Goodness, about 20 posts aimed at Justus. Crazy...just ignore him. My question goes back to Confederate and others who have used this simulator. Apparently in some of the scenarios vehicles were involved. I'm curious as to which scenes involving vehicles instructed the officer not to shoot or to move out of harms way? These scenes on the simulator do exist...right?

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