LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - The La Crosse Police Department's Citizen's Academy covers one of the most serious parts of their job.
For officers, the decision to use deadly force can sometimes happen in an instant. Because the consequences are so serious, the department makes sure their officers are well trained before they draw their weapons.
The Citizen's Academy got a hands-on look at that training on the department's live fire range.
With each round down range, academy members get a better idea of what these weapons can do. "They did very well," said Lt. Troy Nedegaard from the La Crosse Police Department, "we didn't have anybody panic, which is great."
Lt. Nedegaard was one of several officers helping on the range, their top priority was safety. "We don't know with this class as far as what is the level of familiarity with that type of weapon or any type of weapon," said Lt. Nedegaard. "Very, very safety conscious," said class member Ron Delap, "they made sure everybody knew what they was doing."
Along with gun safety, the officers hope the class gains a better understanding of what they go through when they train. "The more we can practice our technique with more repetitions, the easier it is for them to react in a proper manner," said Lt. Nedegaard.
That repetition can mean the difference between life and death. Take the 2010 case of Keith Marchbanks. Onalaska officers arrived on that scene and within moments Marchbanks came at them carrying a large knife, and was shot by an officer.
Like many police shootings it happened fast, in just seconds, and the only way to react properly in that scenario is to be prepared.
"Obviously you have your body reaction as far as you adrenaline rush is going to happen," said Lt. Nedegaard, "your dexterity is going to be lost to some degree because of how your body reacts to such an intense moment at the time, so the more we can focus on the training the better it is to actually control the body."
A controlled setting like the live fire exercise was fun for the class, but it carries a serious purpose. "The consequences are so high, it's something that we have to train on all the time," said Lt. Nedegaard.
"My son is a police officer and I knew that they were pretty heavy into training and everything," said Delap, "but I didn't realize it was this heavy, and I'm happy that they do it."
Officers also practice firing from a shooting position, like they would from their squads, and laying down on the ground. They also have computer simulators that give real-world scenarios.
They point out that rarely is a suspect standing still like they do on a range. Officers go through deadly force training four times a year, both on the live and simulated gun ranges.
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