MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The scenario was clear — two brothers were arguing over money at their business. Someone called 911 and the brothers appeared close to blows.
Responding deputies from the Broward Sheriff’s Office had to de-escalate the situation.
The scenario could very well have been real. Instead, it was a made-up scenario created by BSO for media posing as deputies and learning about use of force policies and procedures at the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The intent of the training was purposeful and clear, according to Deputy Mel Murphy.
“We want you guys to experience at a limited capacity of what we go through on a daily basis,” Murphy said.
The fictional scenario mentioned above quickly devolved. The brothers continued fighting, refused to be separated and one of them had a gun. To add to the chaos, a group of onlookers — played by BSO cadets — hollered and recorded the action on smartphones. At one point an onlooker shouted, “What are you doing to him,” as a media member tried to speak with one of the “brothers.”
For the media members, it was uncomfortable and intense. We tried to keep order and get the story from the participants but the parties weren’t willing to calm down.
And all the while, at least one person kept trying to grab the media members’ simulated firearms.
One BSO Sergeant reminded us that “You’re duty is to keep that safe.”
Ultimately, Murphy ended the fictional scenario once backup arrived and there were some lessons to take away.
“You were nervous with people behind you and that’s what’s gonna happen,” he said to one of the media participants.
The intent of the training was to give media — and through us, the public — a view of how these confrontations occur and how quickly deputies have to make use of force decisions.
“These things are real and it’s very demanding on the women and men that are serving this community,” said Sheriff Gregory Tony.
BSO has been under the microscope for the past few months with deputies charged criminally in several high profile use of force cases like the rough arrest of a teen in Tamarac and a handcuffed inmate punched by a deputy at a Broward hospital.
Also on Friday, Sheriff Tony announced the firing of a deputy who punched a handcuffed suspect at the Broward Main Jail. CBS 4 News was told this training has been in the works for quite some time but the agency hopes it gives the public a more nuanced understanding of complex situations. We’re also told that each deputy undergoes this type of training each year.
During Friday’s simulations, the media members were geared up with simulated less than lethal items, like a pepper spray can that shot water and a simulated firearm that shot tiny capsules filled with paint and vinegar. We also wore body cameras.
The video was recorded and shown to us later so we could see the limited view from the cameras. The video also reinforced how challenging it is to see all of the different things occurring around us while trying to defuse a potentially violent situation and remember all the things that were happening.
Clearly, the media participants did not have the benefit of months or years of intense law enforcement training prior to the scenarios.
We also did not have the hands-on, field experience of the deputies. Nevertheless, the training scenarios did underscore the unpredictability and chaotic nature of emergency calls for law enforcement as well as showing the quickness with which deputies and officers must make split-second decisions.
In another training scenario, media members had to perform a traffic stop and we were told there might be drugs and guns in the car.
As we approached the car, the driver did not want to fully drop his window. A passenger in the car immediately became volatile, jumping from the car and getting in the face of the media member playing the role of deputy. It devolved quickly and ended with one of the deputies training being doused in fake pepper spray.
A question arose about when a deputy should reach for a less than lethal option to gain compliance. A media member said he felt it necessary to pull out his simulated “pepper spray” when the training officer jumped from the car and started getting in his face. Murphy thought that was a good instinct.
“That’s a form of de-escalation,” Murphy said, explaining that sometimes just showing a can of pepper spray or other less than lethal item might get a person to stand down. “You were right. You were definitely right. Good job.”
Murphy said one of the keys for deputies responding to real life scenarios is to always have a plan.
“I have to think what the call is and get all the notes, what’s going on and formulate a plan,” he said.
Ultimately, he believes this media training is important for the community to see.
“It’s bridging our relationship with the public,” he said.