Civic leaders hold "shoot, don't shoot" demonstration

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Houston police offered a a handful of community activists and reporters a glimpse of what goes into the split second life or death decisions officers make every day.

They took the group through their Shoot or Don't Shoot Training.

I was one of the reporters invited to be a part of the drill. I was partnered with attorney and activist Sylvia Mintz.

We were flagged down for help, and when we got to our scene we found a man with a gun pointed at another man on the ground.

The man with the gun was a homeowner who was holding a would-be robber until police arrived.

"I got really confused when he dropped the gun so easily," Mintz says. "That's when I realized he wasn't the suspect, but was the victim."

Mintz was one of several activists invited to this Shoot or Don't Shoot Training.

"I'm in shock to see how many decisions you have to make in seconds. And you have to get it right because the people's lives are at stake."

Captain Jennifer Evans is in charge of the real version of this training. She says she wanted these community leaders to understand what officers deal with daily.

"We think we know what we're walking into, but as dispatch calls, they come in one thing and you get there and it's something else," she says. "And you just have to adapt on the fly."

"It was an eye opening experience," adds Houston NAACP Executive Director Yolanda Smith.

Smith tells us people call them all the time for help filing complaints against police for excessive force. This training gave her a new understanding of both sides.

"...So after those investigations are done, most often it turns out that again those officers had to make split second decisions. and not all the time are those complaints valid."

Officer Andre Watkins has been on the force for 29 years. He says there's a way everyone can avoid those dangerous situations: comply today and if you think you're dealing with a rogue officer, live to report it tomorrow.

"We don't want those potential bad habits to continue and fester and before you know it create a virus within our own agency."

Cadets go through months of this training before they leave the police academy. Captain Evans says it's the place to make mistakes and get a do-over, because there are no do-overs in real life.

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