Deputies train for true trouble

Published 11:23 pm Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Brandon Burkett with the Escambia County drug task force takes aim during a simulation training Monday at the task force office.

Raising a gun from his holster, Brandon Burkett took aim at a suspect bent on killing a cop.

Only this suspect was on a movie screen, and Burkett’s gun wasn’t loaded.

But the scenario — and many others like it — helped teach Escambia County sheriff’s deputies Monday how to react in situations that could need force, from courthouse shootings to home invasions — as well as those in which force was not needed, just a firm hand.

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Chief Deputy Mike Lambert said the simulation training is an invaluable tool to allow officers a chance to experience just such a situation.

“We need to know how to handle these situations even though we don’t get those kinds of calls on a regular basis,” Lambert said. “This is the time for them to learn, make mistakes and get an idea of how it feels to be faced with that situation.”

Responding to calls regarding criminal activity requires knowledge of how to handle a variety of situations. Law enforcement training is expensive, but local agencies are getting a break with costs, thanks to equipment available with the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center.

Dave Mather, executive director with NLECTC, visited Brewton Monday and offered a round of training for local deputies.

“The program is made possible through grant frunding from the National Institute of Justice and makes it possible to offer support for smaller agencies,” Mather said. “About 97 percent of all law enforcement agencies in this country have less than 50 sworn officers and are operating on a limited budget. That makes testing, evaluation and training a problem for those agencies.”

Lambert said funding for training officers is always a problem.

“By the time you figure in the cost of ammunition, use of a firing range, equipment, overtime and everything else that goes into good training, it’s simply a funding issues,” Lambert said. “Without this kind of opportunity, we would have been able to do this kind of training because of expense. At best, we could do this training only once a year or maybe every other year.”

Monday’s training gave officers a chance to train under a variety of circumstances including a “use of force” scenario where they were faced with reacting to a criminal with a gun, Lambert said.

“This kind of training also helps in the courtroom when it comes to testimony about cases when the chips are down,” Lambert said.
Mather said the training — like that offered Monday  becomes a big help to several departments in a particular area.

“This kind of equipment and training is a benefit to more than just one department in a regional area,” Mather said. “Because it’s a partnership, departments in cities close to each other can all pitch in together for the cost of the training.”

Lambert said the training would also be available to law enforcement officers in Brewton, East Brewton, Flomaton, Poarch, Atmore.

“It’s nice to have this equipment available to share with other departments,” Lambert said.

“When everyone is trained well, all of our departments can work better together. This system will make it possible for us to have training for everyone in the department from transportation and patrolmen to courthouse staff. It also makes it possible to train these officers while they are on the job and get real-life training experience. Training while they are on the job cuts down on expenses for everyone.”

Scenarios presented during Monday’s training included being faced with the decision on when to use deadly force, Lambert said.

“When our officers are faced with pursuing someone who is armed, it forces us to live by his rules that he makes up as he goes,” Lambert said. “We don’t want our officers to be unprepared when it comes to making that kind of decision. This kind of training gives them a chance to make mistakes and determine the best way to handle a situation that may decide whether they survive an encounter with a gunman.”