Two Revere Police Officers stood in the back of a semi-trailer outfitted as a shooting range last month staring at a movie screen and ready to use their firearms if necessary.
As the movie scene played out, two officers stood about 20 feet from the screen as a chaotic scene erupted. The interactive movie showed the outside of a convenience store.
There was yelling.
Chaos ensued on screen.
A police car pulled up in the distance and other officers are seen exiting and drawing their weapons.
The officers watching the film grabbed their weapons.
Suddenly, a man emerged from out of nowhere with a gun and began firing upon the officers.
A series of gunshots erupted as the two training officers ripped off several live rounds into the movie screen.
In another movie clip, the camera moves down a hospital corridor as an argument is heard in the background. Suddenly, the officers round a corner and see an argument amongst family members. Everything appears to be a routine disagreement until all the sudden one man grabs a knife and goes to stab the patient in the hospital bed.
“Boom, boom, boom,” ring the real officers’ guns suddenly.
Other movie clips involve incidents that appear to be violent, but with restraint, are brought to a peaceful resolution. In between, Officer Joe Internicola – a range instructor in the department – helps analyze what happened and the decisions that were made; whether a shooting that was made would be justified or not.
All of it is designed to get officers to think within semi-real situations about when to shoot and when not to shoot.
Obviously, police shootings have been in the news this year and have garnered much publicity and much criticism – especially after the shootings in Missouri last summer. Like no other time recently, officers who draw their weapons and fire are scrutinized from the local level to the federal level.
Avoiding international incidents can come down to preparation, which is exactly what the Revere Police have been doing by training in the semi-trailer with live weapons for the last three years.
“This is an exercise to get our men and women to thinking about situations where they might have to use lethal force,” said Chief Joe Cafarelli, who initiated the idea. “It’s not exactly like the real thing, but it gets officers thinking about situations before they happen.”
Lt. John Goodwin said he thinks it is very important to keep officers sharp. He said some officers may never have to shoot their weapons for decades, but that can change at any moment on any day.
“This training has scenarios that are very, very real,” he said. “There are movies where they’re walking into a convenience store and there is a hostage situation. It’s just a movie, but you have to in real-time evaluate and actively decide what to do. Shoot or don’t shoot. It’s split second. We don’t get a lot of training on when not to shoot. This training goes above and beyond. We’re not all about nightsticks and guns.”
Internicola said that over the last three years officers have commented that they have gotten a lot of the training – if not just the mental exercise of it.
“Hopefully, we’ll never find ourselves at a call where one of these situations unfolds,” he said. “We have to all be prepared at any moment and to act within a split second. Not every situation is a shoot. We don’t want to just blast away every time. It’s also good because we do it two at a time and officers have to work as a team. The trailer also has the ability to go pitch black flashlight training and to simulate police flashing lights. The guys and girls who have done this training say it helps them to put things in perspective. You have to make split second decisions about weighing the protection of life versus public safety.”
He also said that previously officers had to drive to Ft. Devens to the shooting range and spend most of the day there so they could qualify with their firearms both in the day and at night – which is required by state training regulations. Now, in the trailer, officers can do the mundane task of qualifying with their weapon and also get a taste of using their weapons in semi-realistic situations.
The operations manager of the trailer, a mobile firearms training range, is Jerry Tilbor of Blue Line Corp. He said they have been operating for more than 20 years, and have been using the movies for the last several years. He said it has been very popular with departments all over the state.