An unusual approach to providing answers that serve both law enforcement and our communities need for understanding and trust.
The National Law Enforcement Museum facilitates public access to and participation in a training simulator that is unique to Washington, DC, and a rarity in the nation. While such exercises are usually focused on marksmanship and weapon proficiency, the Museum’s simulator provides a realistic law enforcement experience to the public, focusing on the challenges faced by law enforcement. That includes what law enforcement does, the rationale for their strategies, and the specific experiences supporting their decisions.
The simulator allows participants to act as officers in scenarios where they must make decisions about the right actions to take, determining what, if any, kind of force may be appropriate.
When a law enforcement officer responds to a request for service, there is an almost universal expectation that he or she will diffuse chaos and restore order in a manner that generally satisfies everyone. Often the reality is much more complicated. Citizens can now experience law enforcement realities directly through our simulator sessions. It is an open forum for discussion and viewing virtual realities from which citizens can share their perspectives on real-life situations. It is an opportunity for visitors to actively participate in virtual law enforcement scenarios and to share their perspectives about real-life situations.
Unlike other professions, the history of law enforcement is founded on a brotherhood of secrecy and resistance to bring home the harsh realities of their profession. Unfortunately, this has become a barrier to public understanding of sacrifices made for the public good. The public questions how current law enforcement strategies serve the public’s best interests and welcoming public feedback can only help broaden that understanding.
Respect and trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve are to a large extent the result of mutual understanding. All of us strive for common goals (reduced crime, increased safety, and mutual respect with dignity), and partnerships that benefit a society that honors both the rule of law and the sanctity of life. Reaching this goal requires exposing the uncertainties and fears we all share regarding what to do when engaging citizens who break our most cherished ideals.
Thus far the public feedback of the simulator exercises is surprisingly hopeful:
- “Wow, that was incredible!”
- “I didn’t realize how stressful these situations are.”
- “Everything happens so fast. I didn’t have time to think.”
- “Everyone needs to see this for themselves.”
Check out the scenario below for a glimpse into the simulator experience.
On your next visit to the Museum, I recommend that you sign up for a session and see for yourself how critical information can help build bridges of understanding and trust.
Alan Davis is a 20 year veteran of the New York City Police Department, a former Corrections Officer with the US Bureau of Prisons, and more recently served nearly ten years as a Police Advisor with the US Department of State, INL. He holds a bachelor degree in Social and Criminal Justice from Ashford University and Masters degree from the International Institute for Restorative Practices.