Police Abuse

Houston Grand Jurors Subjected to Shooting Simulator to Prepare for Police Shooting Cases

|

not from simulator
Law Enforcement Threats, Inc.

Grand juries in Harris County, Texas, have dismissed 288 police shootings in a row since 2004, leading to heightened criticism over a shooting simulator used to prime them over the last decade. The Associated Press (AP) explains:

The armed carjacker projected on a large screen threatens to kill you if you don't give up your keys. Holding a modified gun that emits a beam, you pull the trigger when he draws his weapon, and seconds later fire again at another person who jumps in front with something in his hand.

The second person turns out to be a bystander holding a cellphone.

This interactive way of illustrating the use of deadly force is part of unusual training that Houston-area grand jurors can receive before they begin hearing cases, including those involving police officers.

The Harris County district attorney's office in Houston calls the shooting simulator—which experts believe is only being used in Texas—an educational tool that helps grand jurors better understand what someone sees when confronted by a threat.

The AP quotes a retired federal agent who sat on a Harris County grand jury in 2008. He condemned the simulation from pushing grand jurors into one camp over another. Prosecutors dismiss that criticism, saying that the simulator actually helps grand juries be objective. Claims of self-defense, prosecutors argue, require grand juries to see the circumstances from the point of view of the person using deadly force.

Another simulator is used in San Antonio, where grand jurors can also tour the medical examiner's office and go on a police ride-along. The National District Attorneys Association told the AP it didn't know of any other places in the U.S. that used such a simulator.

Despite Harris County grand juries' streak of dismissing police shootings, the simulator may not have much of an effect. The AP reports a comment from a Houston law professor who points out grand juries "usually" give cops the benefit of the doubt.

Such deference isn't limited to juries of the grand kind. Earlier this year in Pittsburgh, a jury couldn't decide that excessive force was used in a police encounter that landed a law-abiding teenager in the hospital even when it ruled the actual arrest was false. In Philadelphia a jury in a civil lawsuit ruled the rapper Meek Mill had no constitutional claim in a 10-hour traffic stop that produced no drugs, even as it read a note faulting both sides for a situation that caused Mill to miss an airplane for work.

NEXT: Ira Stoll on Republican Party Disarray

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The fact that these citizens don’t hold trained agents of the law using deadly force to a higher standard than they hold themselves speaks volumes of the electorate.

    1. Most American citizens are dumber than a box of fucking rocks, to put it mildly.

      1. Yeah. This is just item number 1,456,283,712 in the list of exhibits in the case “US Citizens v. Limited Government and the Rule of Law”.

    2. This is the ‘put yourself in the cops shoes’ argument writ large. Yeah, I’ll put myself in the cops shoes just as soon as I go through their schooling and their OJT for a few years. I expect a cop to do a better job of being a cop than me, and part of that job is not shooting random people.

      If I do a job on your house that gets you electrocuted am I allowed to use the ‘put yourself in an electricians shoes’ defense to show you how hard an electricians job is and how little you know about being an electrician?

  2. Do they also have to write “OFFICER SAFETY is paramount” on the chalkboard two hundred times?

  3. I would suggest someone shoots their dog before deliberation.

    1. They would convince themselves that it was for their own good, and for officer safety of course, which trumps everything.

    2. Is the dog holding a cell phone?

      1. PITBULL!!!!

        BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM

  4. “You missed the baby, you missed the blind man…”

  5. This odd silly since is conditions the jurors to think there is a threat EVERY time. If the simulator had it so 999 of1000 encounters were harmless then it would be closer to reality. This just makes the jurors think it is a war out there and officers are constantly in fire fights.

    1. On phone.. edit button!

      1. This is silly since it conditions…

  6. Holding a modified gun that emits a beam, you pull the trigger when he draws his weapon, and seconds later fire again at another person who jumps in front with something in his hand.

    The second person turns out to be a bystander holding a cellphone.

    So this what, supposed to teach grand jurors about how hard it is to determine “in the heat of battle” whether someone has a gun or a cell phone? Aren’t cops allegedely these highly trained paragons of virtue who are specifically NOT supposed to be panicky little bitches?

    I know, I know, OFFICER SAFETY!!!1!! FTW.

    I wonder what would happen if a juror didn’t fire on the second person because they saw that is was just a cell phone? I’m guessing that would be a quick way to get dismissed from the grand jury.

    1. Aren’t cops allegedely these highly trained paragons of virtue who are specifically NOT supposed to be panicky little bitches?

      “Trust me, I know what I’m doing!”

    2. I’ve done that police simulator, years ago, and didn’t fire on the innocent people.

      ‘Course, in one simulation I took a load of buckshot to the face because I took time to see if the guy in the shed was actually armed.

  7. Sounds like jury tamerping to me, send the lot to prison.

    1. We have a thread-winner.

  8. Well they must obviously do this for all self-defense cases, not just those involving law enforcement, right? Right?

    1. Claims of self-defense, prosecutors argue, require grand juries to see the circumstances from the point of view of the person using deadly force.

      So why don’t they do this in all cases where the suspect can claim self-defense?

      1. Oh oh, I know I know.

        Because Fuck you, that’s why!

      2. If you shoot somebody coming toward you with a cellphone, can you even claim self-defense? Is a cop shooting an unarmed person he mistakenly believes is armed shooting in self-defense?

        There’s the case in Atlanta where the guy was a victim of an attempted carjacking but pulled a gun and shot at the guys. He then ran to a nearby business, gun in hand, to get them to call 911. In the meantime, an off-duty cop in his personal vehicle hears the shots, sees the guy with a gun, leaps out of his vehicle with his gun drawn. The guy who’s just had to shoot at armed men attempting to carjack him sees a guy pull up in a truck, leap out with a gun in his hand and come toward him. Naturally, he opens fire on the cop, assuming he’s one of the carjackers buddies.

        Do you think he got off on a self-defense argument? Of course not, just as surely as, had the cop shot the guy first, there would be no question that it would have been just a tragic accident.

        1. Yes you can – the self-defense defense rests on a ‘reasonable person’s perception of the events’, not what *actually* was happening.

  9. If you shoot somebody coming toward you with a cellphone, can you even claim self-defense?

    Only if you reaosnably believed that your life (or the life of another) was in imminent danger.

    Is a cop shooting an unarmed person he mistakenly believes is armed shooting in self-defense?

    Absolutely, every time. Hell, you can even get rid of the “he mistakenly believes is armed” without affecting the result, as far as I can tell. Or change “shooting” to “beats to death.” Makes no diff.

    1. Ahhh… The old ‘Heads: I win, Tails: you loose”
      game… man, that one never gets old..

  10. Imagine if every guy tried for shooting a cop during a dynamic entry was allowed to have his jury use the simulator.

  11. Will the grand jurors be offered this opportunity for *civilian* self-defense cases?

  12. Not to repeat what’s already been posted, but I’d be more than happy to go along with the simulator as long as the grand jurors who must participate in it also have to attend the police academy and then get paid $60k a year with a lifetime pension and full health benefits as compensation for their professionalism.

  13. This has a great potential to help armed civilians who are forced to use deadly force against assailants.

    The “shoot -Don’t Shoot” simulation that I’ve been through used mostly civilian victims. The law, the tactics, the threats, and the psychology/physiology of the response are identical. If experienced officers, expecting trouble on their watch, can honestly and reasonably screw up, so can civilians surprised by the same threat. Maybe the grand jury will realize that.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.