“The main thing we do is we train to communicate. The key point is to always keep safety at the forefront,” McCants says.
The Academy uses real-world scenarios to prepare its officers, situations that are usually inspired by actual events. When something goes wrong in the situation, the officers must decide if three elements are present: ability, opportunity, and jeopardy.
Major McCant explained what must go through the officers’ minds when deciding whether to fire their weapon or not. She lists:
Ability: does the suspect have the ability to hurt me?
Opportunity: do they have the opportunity to hurt me?
Jeopardy: is the jeopardy (danger of harm) there?
If the answer to all three questions is “yes,” the officer can pull their weapon. If the answer to at least one of these questions is “no” and the officer shoots anyway, an investigation will take place.
The Academy instructors, like Senior Instructor Jonathan Cox, remind their students to take their time to make sure they’re making the right decision.
“I tell students a lot here that one of their worst enemies is speed. Take a second, slow down, and see the big picture,” Cox says.
Focused training, like that which is taught at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, instructors say future police officers can avoid violence and focus on what’s most important: people’s safety.