NBC5 Special Report: Residents step into the shoes of local police

Medford, Ore. — Only on NBC5 News, we’re continuing our series on officer-involved shootings. In part 1 of our two-part special series, we looked at when and why officer’s use deadly force, and how their actions are evaluated by a grand jury. In part 2, we’re walking in their shoes, as a group of community members with ranging opinions on law enforcement make the tough decision on whether to shoot.

MILO is an interactive video system used by police agencies locally and around the country to simulate use-of-force scenarios. The MILO system is now set-up and available 24/7 at the new Medford police station. NBC5 got exclusive access.

“We haven’t actually even used it in here yet,” Lt. Kerry Curtis tells the group, “so you guys will be the first to go through it.”

We put together a diverse focus group of men and women with varying opinions on police. Some described their feelings as entirely positive, one was skeptical to say all police officers were good, but believed a majority were, and another, had some concerns, based on his experiences with law enforcement as a minority.

All were willing to participate though, and we asked them to take part in a number of simulations, where they have to make the call. Their reactions were varied. And, while each one of them deployed their weapon in every scenario, it wasn’t always accurate, or their response was delayed.

We interviewed each participant again after the simulation.

“It was amazing how so many seconds could just be gone,” Jody Munden says, “it’s either life or death.”

“In almost all of simulations I was a little late to the draw,” Meghann Erickson says.

“I died 3 or 4 times,” Rick Deates says.

“It felt really good to be on the other side, and see how you would react,” Freddie Dunbar Jr. says, “I reacted differently than I thought I would.

And while some questions were answered:

“I assumed that maybe I could shoot him somewhere else,” Erickson says, “but in that scenario it didn’t work and he in turn shot me.”

“I think well man, you could have gave him a different, a better chance but when it’s your -behind the gun it’s totally different,” Dunbar adds, “when you see someone coming at you with a weapon it changes your mind, it’s either you or the assailant.

But for Dunbar there are concerns that still remain.

“We have to work on the community and the police,” Dunbar says, “we still need to do more talks with interaction with the community and get some real feelings out, because it’s not gonna grow without more talking about it.”

But every participant said they walked out thinking a little differently.

“I can see what they go through,” Dunbar says.

“It’s not a job that I could do,” Erickson says.

“It’s amazing, how how quick it can go, and how wrong it can go,” Munden says.

“Middle of the night, in the rain, I can see how things can go bad real quick,” Deates says.

Medford police says growing it’s relationship with the community is a continuous and concerted effort, and say it’s always looking for new ways to build bonds. If you’re interested in learning more about the work local police are doing, many agencies hold citizens academies. MPD’s next academy starts in January. Click HERE to learn more.


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