I lived my own version of the Tom Cruise movie “Edge of Tomorrow” last week when the NYPD let me take part in an officer training program that has recruits walk into a restaurant where a bad guy is shooting up the place.
Thankfully, it was just a video game-like simulation, because I couldn’t help but get killed.
So let’s just say I’m glad I’m a reporter and not a cop.
I suited up with a belt equipped with a faux handgun, bottle of pepper spray, and stun gun and had to respond to an “active shooter” in a restaurant. I could hear gunshots inside as soon as my partner and I arrived on the scene, so I cautiously walked in and saw a injured person lying on the ground, and another hiding, pointing to a different room where I suspected the shooter was.
I turned the corner and saw a guy laying face down on the ground. Within seconds, a masked man jumped out and started shooting. I froze and couldn’t react fast enough — mostly because my gun was still in its holster.
And it stayed their useless while I lay there dead.
But, unlike the real world, I was given a second chance.
This time I smartened up and had my gun cocked and ready to go by the time the virtual bruiser fired at me.
I fired — and missed.
The less-than-one-minute scenario happened in the blink of an eye and I couldn’t even remember the details. I thought I had fired twice, but I only pulled the trigger once. Thankfully, my partner’s shot hit its target.
And it wasn’t just the situation that was scary. I had a difficult time handling the weapon, and I’m sure I never want to be in the presence of a loaded gun.
When I first fired, I wasn’t expecting the kickback, and it made me jump back a few feet.
But the simulation helped me understand the most harrowing situation members of New York’s Finest can go through — anytime they have to remove their gun from their holster.
That could happen when a crazy person is threatening someone with a knife, or if a husband is beating up his wife, or if, as in my case, someone is shooting in a crowded area.
And the only way to train for these situations is to use the simulator.
“We want to put them in the safety and security of a classroom and make them make a real life decision, where if there is a mistake, there are no real world consequences, and obviously there are no real bullets,” said Officer Steven Malone, who ran the training. “So that way if they make a poor decision, we can address that in the classroom and it’s not happening in the real world.”
But the real Men and Women in Blue who go through the training must also first exert themselves physically — with runs and jumping jacks — to get their hearts pumping and activate the fight or flight response, which makes making decisions even more challenging, said Malone.
“The adrenaline response in your body is going to make everything more difficult,” he said.
For me, though, just imagining the situation was enough.