LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — It may look like the real thing, but in this east valley warehouse, the guns don’t have bullets. And the Tasers do not fire.
Welcome to Metro’s reality-based training — where these tools are just as important as the real-life scenarios they’re part of.
The I-Team got an exclusive look at what real-life scenario training looks like for Metro officers. This isn’t just for trainees at the academy — but for everyone on the force — to know what to do in any kind of situation.
“If there’s something that we’re missing, we want to review it and get it right and teach our officers,” said Capt. Hector Cintron of the Organizational Development Bureau.
It’s all to teach officers de-escalation tactics for situations where force may have been the go-to answer before.
“It’s not about waiting for when you have this moment of crisis and you have to act,” said Capt. Kelly McMahill, Deputy Chief of the Professional Standards Division.
Acting in moments of crisis, such as a scenario where officers respond to a man who accidentally fires his gun. This time, it ends with the suspect shot.
“We don’t use any virual reality here,” said Sgt. Adam Stubbs. “How do you communicate with somebody who’s holding a firearm, but stressed out?”
“Hopefully they tell him, ‘It’s going to be ok. Take your finger off the trigger. It’s going to be OK.’ “
Capt. Cintron said, “Anytime our officers fire at somebody and strike somebody, it’s a big deal. Or we hurt somebody — it’s a big deal.”
These trainings are something Metro has done for years. And data shows it seems to be working.
Last year, the department saw a quarter reduction in officer-involved shootings from the year before.
Fatal officer-involved shootings dropped from 12 in 2018 to four last year.
Metro’s top brass said the ongoing discussions about fatal incidents are working.
“Being progressive means you’re trying to stay ahead of these horrible things that are happening across the country,” McMahill said.
That included discussions about the May in-custody death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
Floyd’s death then became a real-life scenario — brought back to the classroom.
“When we watch what happened in Minnesota, it breaks our hearts,” McMahill said. “It makes us angry — all those feelings. And I think it’s even more so because that man had a badge on.”
Wesley Juhl works with the ACLU of Nevada.
“As much as it’s nice to hear that Metro learned from the lynching of George Floyd, I have to kind of question, when did that happen?” he asked. “Was it when they were shooting pepper balls at peaceful protesters?”
Juhl said Metro has come a long way. But training is just a start.
“Training is the new ‘thoughts and prayers’ for police departments. It’s not enough,” Juhl said. “We need to meaningfully regulate their interactions with the community.”
Metro says those interactions are now reviewed and scrutinized — to stop the next incident before it starts.
“We’re continually looking at how to get better,” McMahill said.
We asked Metro about its policies following George Floyd’s death. They said they have specific rules about blocking a person’s air flow — A policy that was in place more than a year before Floyd’s death.
State of Metro:
In a five-day series, 8NewsNow looks at reform in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and the questions raised by Black Lives Matter protests.
Nov. 16: (overview): I-Team: Metro police face-to-face with racial tensions in Las Vegas
Nov. 16: I-Team: Examining how Metro stacks up when it comes to police reform policy changes
Nov. 16: State of Metro: By the numbers
Nov. 17: I-Team: Black police officers are in the middle as protests flare, challenges grow
Nov. 17: I-Team: Black police officers set national example for community service
Nov. 18: I-Team: Use of Force Board gives citizens an inside voice in Las Vegas police matters
Nov. 18: I-Team: 2019 death of Byron Williams brings attention to Metro policies on use of force
Nov. 19: I-Team: ‘We don’t use any virtual reality,’ Metro trains using real-life scenarios
Nov. 19: I-Team: Police hiring is crucial to building a force Las Vegas can trust
Nov. 20: I-Team: ‘There’s nobody that dislikes a bad cop more than a cop,’ sheriff says
Nov. 20: Deaths in police interactions, 2013-2020 — MAP
Nov. 20: I-Team: Metro reaction to police protests mirrors progress, willingness to change