A three-day officer training program wraps up today at the Brownwood police headquarters, where officers from the Brownwood Police Department and Brown Country Sheriff’s Office have been using a new simulation system to practice de-escalation techniques and—if necessary—using force.
    The Texas Association of Counties has developed this Resistance Response Simulator training, which includes over 600 realistic scenarios including active shooter, domestic violence, burglary and more. Darren Jackson, former Scurry County sheriff and law enforcement consultant for the association, said the ending of each simulation could be modified in real time based on officers’ responses.
    “Every scenario has alternative endings,” Jackson explained. “So if an officer steps up and they’re giving really good verbal commands, and they’re controlling the situation, then I have the authority to de-escalate it, make the guy drop the weapon and comply with his orders. If the officer’s not giving what I think is good command presence and control, then I allow it to escalate.”
    The scenarios are projected onto a screen in front of the officers, where actors perform the confrontations as officers respond.
    Brown Country Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Cornelius used the simulator on Thursday morning as Jackson worked the controls. Cornelius was armed with a modified handgun and pepper spray, which emit a laser when used during simulations.
    Cornelius worked through two scenes during his session. In the first, he watched as two school employees fought over food in the break room. Although the two became briefly physical, and one verbally accosted the officer after the fight, Cornelius used only verbal cues to de-escalate the situation. Jackson talked through the minute-long simulation when it concluded, sharing his observations with the handful of other officers in the room.
    “Are fighting words justification for use of force?” he asked. “They’ve got the right to express their attitude, their respects, to use their language. Police officers cannot be offended by that. If they use profanity towards us, we cannot use force as a result of that. That’s a part of the job. You’ve just got to learn to have thick skin.”
    In the second simulation, Cornelius confronted a homeless man sleeping in the park against city rules. The man was immediately noncompliant, yelling at Cornelius to leave him alone, and ended the simulation by suddenly charging at Cornelius even though he did not have a weapon.
    Jackson said the situation might have improved if Cornelius had brandished his pepper spray when the man grew agitated and began clinching his fists.
    “Sometimes the show of force is as good a deterrent as the use of force,” Jackson said. “When you pull the pepper spray out, now that’s a very real threat to them, and it might gain compliance even without deployment.”
    Brown County interim Sheriff George Caldwell said the program can help his officers make split-second decisions that can have big ramifications.
    “We don’t have time to do a lot of research and it has to be done in milliseconds sometimes, and it just helps us in that,” he said. “The best option is to get compliance and let us do our job without having to use force, and that’s what this course really emphasizes.”
    Jackson said he’ll be taking the simulator to departments all around the state. He hopes the course will improve officer de-escalation techniques and show the public that the police are serious about saving lives.