On Monday, the Coral Springs Police Department gave NBC 6 reporter Keith Jones some “behind the scenes” training on what it's like to face real-life situations experienced by police officers on a daily basis. And in almost every situation, the reporter faced violent and belligerent person and either kills or gets killed. Afterwards, Jones lamented that the public and the media unjustly criticize fatal police shootings.
“Even if it's justified, they're still under the scrutiny of the media and the community,” Jones said. “It seems like it's a no win proposition.”
Police organizations couldn't design a better advertising campaign to combat the movement against police shootings. That's because they've actually designed programs like the one NBC 6 participated in for the sole purpose of combating anti-police brutality sentiment that grew after the deaths of Ferguson's Michael Brown and Staten Island's Eric Garner.
“After Ferguson and Staten Island, we saw a lot of reporters who were not informed and we wanted to create a better informed person,” says Ron Hoskow, the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), an organization that funds attorney fees for cops accused of police brutality.
Hoskow's LELDF says that, since February, they've done between 15 and 20 media training sessions, all of which involve throwing an untrained reporter into deadly police shooting scenarios.
The training that NBC 6 participated in was not directly affiliated with LELDF, according to Hoskow, but it has the same idea: Put reporters with no police training in do-or-die situations and then have the reporter come to a conclusion that it's difficult not to use deadly force. Police departments around the country, like Coral Springs, have implemented a similar public relations campaign.
LELDF has given the immersive do-or-die shooting training to NPR and USA Today. And a quick Google search shows that several local news outlets around the country have done similar training with their local police departments, including the Detroit News, as well as two Phoenix TV stations.
Hoskow admits that reporters are only given “about an hour of discussion about case law and police tactics” before they are given a gun and put into deadly situations, which is clearly not close to what real police officers have to undergo. Nonetheless, even with the knowledge that cameras are rolling and the LELDF wants to better inform the public, throwing a person with one hour of training into several armed confrontations is something he believes helps inform the public.
“This isn't a pass, fail thing,” Hoskow says. “We just want to help media create a better informed person.”
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Indeed, that better informed person involved a situation in which Pretend Officer Jones shot an unarmed man. In that part of the segment, Jones approached a man in a hoodie who was at the end of a dark, narrow hallway, trying to get into a locked door. When Jones questioned him, the man walked towards him in an aggressive manner. Jones shot him. Afterwards, it was determined that the man only had a cell phone and a wallet.
Nonetheless, a Coral Springs Officer Scott Mitchell told Jones that the shooting was justified solely because there was a perceived threat.
“So you perceived that the moment you pulled the trigger, you had a lethal threat against you and you defended yourself,” said Mitchell. “That means your shooting was good. It was a justified shooting.”
And no questions were asked.