Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Robert Jamieson and police reporter Casey McNerthney took part in training offered to police officers to see “what goes through an officer’s mind in the heat of the moment — in high-stress, rapidly unfolding encounters that involve the use of force,” Jamieson writes. “Whenever an officer is involved in a shooting, they think about it forever,” says Seattle Police Sgt. Pete Verhaar, a firearms training instructor. “They try to forget. They never can. It stays with you the rest of your life.”
Judging from a day in the simulated line of fire — the split-second thinking, blinding rush of adrenaline, and ways a memory can play tricks, says Jamieson, being an officer is tougher than it may seem. When officers face a lethal threat, these words go through their minds: “Action beats reaction.” In the training exercise, people projected on a giant screen, through computerized magic, interacted with the journalists. Software scrambled the outcomes. A realistic-looking Glock discharged blanks and fired lasers at the screen. A computer measured whether we struck the intended target as well as our reaction times. Jamieson concluded that police show remarkable restraint by not rushing to use guns in thorny disputes.