Tahlequah Police increase required training

Posted at 7:34 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 20:34:55-05

"Police department. Anybody here?," Tahlequah officer Skylar Green yelled during simulated use of force training on Thursday.

Green and other Tahlequah officers particiapted in the training, which involves everyday scenarios projected onto a large wall. 

The more than 800 scenarios loaded into the simulator adapt to the commands of the officer. After vocally asking one man to put down a rifle during a domestic dispute, Green fired his simulator gun at the man when he felt his life was in danger.

"I think he had a rifle," Green said. "He wasn't intending to put it down, instead of presenting it up toward me." 

The use of force simulator is just one form of training Tahlequah officers are required to complete, as part of the departments recent increase to a mandatory 52 hours of yearly training. Chief Nate King said it is more than double the state requirements from CLEET of 25 hours per year.

He said some have expressed concerns about the increase in training, but he said it is justified.

"I'm a huge fan of life-long learning," King said. "I feel like your entire life no matter what you're doing, you should be learning something everyday. This is a way that officers can better equip themselves to deal with what we face on a daily basis."

The goal of Thursday's use of force training for officers was the same goal they try to achieve on every shift.

"This training is about deescalating situations, because in any situation if we can end it without violence, that is great because that means no one gets hurt," King said. 

It is the reason during his training, Green lowered his gun after talking his way out of what started as a potentially violent threat. It is a training scenario he said will help him while on patrol. 

"You kind of know it is a controlled environment, but it is still stressful that you don't want to mess-up," Green said. 

The training the department reports could be life saving, for both officers and the citizens they work to protect. That is the reason Indian Capital Technology Center allows officers to use the simulator.

ICTC originally purchased the simulator for students in its criminal justice program to use. Campus Director Robin Roberts said the simulator is now benefiting the entire Tahlequah community as more police officers complete training using it.

"The more they can interact, the more they see, I think the more confidence they have out in the field," Roberts said.

King said his department has been involved in only one fatal officer involved shooting in the past 50 plus years. He contributes that low number during recent history to his department's extensive training.