Columbia Police Department hosts deadly force demonstration

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department hosted a deadly force demonstration Thursday to inform the media and the public about the decision-making process that goes into using deadly force. 

The demonstration was a part of a new CPD initiative to be more transparent with the public. Officials said the idea to improve relations with the community was prompted by events in Ferguson and Baltimore.

CPD officials spoke about the deadly force law in Missouri, which says officers can use it if they reasonably believe they are threatened.

CPD official Lance Bolinger said, "When someone starts to resist or use force against us, we have to make a split second decision on what kind of force we're going to use in response to their resistance, and it's a tough decision made under rapidly evolving unknown circumstances."

The deadly force presentation presented a series of three scenarios. The first was a firearm simulator where participants stood in front of a projector screen with a fake gun and were asked if they would pull the trigger during a school shooting hostage situation. The second was deadly force decision-making scenario where the participants had to decide whether or not to shoot a man with paint ball guns. The third was a protester scenario in which the participants had to try and negotiate with protesters to get them out of the street. 

Bolinger got the idea for the event from a training conference in Chicago.

"One of the biggest issues that they identified in law enforcement is that we're not doing a good enough job in explaining police use of force to the public as far as police officers make decisions," Bolinger said. 

Robert Shatlain was an actor in the protest simulation. 

"Today was just what I call a real fun day. They asked us if we would come to help out with the scenarios," Shatlain said. 

Bolinger said there are a lot of people who still support police officers, despite the events in Ferguson. 

"The Ferguson incident has been the largest impact on policing in America. We're still trying to figure it all out post-Ferguson," Bolinger said. "Post-Ferguson we really need to go back to the community policing model where were out there in the community, we're engaging with the community, and there's a lot more communication back-and-forth."

Bolinger said CPD has started a community outreach unit that is focused on establishing relationships with the community.

"The police have gotten such a bad reputation for many years, and then recently with things that have happened," Shatlain said. "So many bad things have happened, and then there's people out there who are saying to shoot the police. I don't agree with that they're here to protect us and to take care of us."