Mickey’s Camp is a long-running retreat for civic leaders and business people sponsored by local philanthropist and businessman, Mickey Mauer. One of the many reasons to attend Mickey’s Camp is an opportunity to participate in a Police Training Exercise. Essentially an elaborate videogame, the exercise puts a person in front of a 12 foot video screen with a firearm, which has been rigged electronically to interact with activities on the display. An operator of the device then selects from an array of computer-generated circumstances that posit actors portraying scenes.
For example, a student might find themselves as an off-duty police officer in a bank lobby when an armed robbery commences. Based upon one’s actions, both verbal and physical, the operator of the device directs preprogrammed video responses back to the learner. The intent is to teach you how to react quickly and under pressure.
Finding yourself in a darkened room, holding a handgun, while reacting to the situation playing out on the screen raises scores of ‘what-if’ questions. Could I kill another person? Could I kill them if I believed myself or another to be in danger? If I chose to fire, what if I killed a bystander? What if I chose not to shoot and the bad guy kills me or others?
Experiencing the exercise, and watching many others participate, I’ve learned that seemingly similar individuals react in entirely different ways. Some may refuse to fire and are shot by the video game criminal. Others act too quickly, perhaps killing someone who would otherwise have surrendered or striking innocent bystanders. Some fire a single bullet while others empty a clip.
Ultimately one learns a lesson of balance, restraint and a willingness to act. It’s not as easy as it looks.