Maine police officers learn how, when to use deadly force

Police academy cadets go through an 18 week training program and begin “use of force” training on day one. (WGME)

VASSALBORO (WGME) -- Maine law enforcement officers learn how and when to use deadly force at the Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro.

Police academy cadets go through an 18 week training program and begin “use of force” training on day one.

The Maine Criminal Justice Academy uses scenario based training, which is hands-on and includes stress inoculation. Instead of learning only in a classroom setting, officers physically go through real-world scenarios based on what other officers have seen.

“Scenario based training is part of the hands-on process of actually being a decision maker,” said John Rogers, the director of the Criminal Justice Academy.

Rogers says scenario-based training allows future law enforcement officers the opportunity to make difficult decisions in a practice environment. Scenarios range from an ordinary traffic stop to a domestic violence call.

According Rogers the class which graduated in December 2016 went through approximately 40 different scenarios. He said half of them involved deadly force.

“Here we train officers to make sure that they are fully prepared to respond as a trained officer in the field because the public should expect nothing less than that,” Rogers said.

At the academy, cadets learn to bring deadly force into deadly force scenarios. They are taught they must meet two standards in order to legally use deadly force.

First, they must reasonably believe deadly force is being threatened against them or a third party. Second, they must believe deadly force is necessary to stop that threat.

Rogers believes officers who go through scenario-based training are better equipped to make that decision in the real world if they’ve already done it in training.

“People have a tendency to learn by doing and if they make mistakes that’s ok we fix the mistakes here in a training environment and that’s why we use scenario based training,” Rogers said.

Cadets agree. Meghan Orchard graduated from the academy in December of 2016 and is training to be a Maine Game Warden. She told CBS 13 she feels prepared to use deadly force, since she’s already done it in training.

“I would ask myself could I really do this in real life if I had to,” Orchard said. “Now the more we do it the easier it is for me to say, ‘yes, I have to do this and I will do it if I have to protect someone else because their life is just as important.’”

According to Rogers not all police academies in the United States use scenario based training.

“There are some academies you go to college for a two year associate degree program and at the end of the two years you take the state certification exam and that’s it you’re a full time officer,” Rogers said.

“It just amazes me why some academies aren’t training like we do here and it might be a reason why some of the problems that are occurring across the country are happening.”

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