Town hall meeting held on police shootings

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- During a town hall meeting on police shootings participants were put in officers' shoes, a simulator, giving them a split second to decide whether to shoot or don't shoot.

"Look at all these police officers with these guns and Tasers," said someone from the crowd.

There were some heated words from people in the crowd, but it was mostly a civil and orderly town hall meeting today, held by the Houston Police at TSU. There were questions about the grand jury process. There were questions about your rights during a traffic stop and yes, the heated topic of law enforcement harassment and shootings.

"It is a system of policing that is killing us," said a town hall participant.

"We've got to get better with some of our more difficult customers," said Chief Charles McClelland with the Houston Police Department. "We have to find meaningful ways and positive ways to engage hard to reach segments of our neighborhood and not by driving up and saying 'put your hands on the wall.' 'Put your hands on the car' and they haven't committed a crime."

"A lot of the people in there, need to come in here, and do this demonstration," said Bettie Peterson, a town hall participant.

Patterson is one of the town hall participants who also went through the Houston Police 'Shoot Don't Shoot' simulator. It's used in police training, and brought into the community to show people what it's like to make life or death decisions like a police officer.
In this scenario, Patterson has arrived to a call where there's an officer down.

"Sir, step away, put the gun down, put the gun down. Put the gun down," said Patterson.

The suspect in the scenario shot several times before Patterson was able to get a shot off herself.

"I can empathize now with the police officer because it isn't easy to second guess and your life can go just like that," Patterson said.

Eyewitness News reporter Elissa Rivas also did the simulator and learned much the same lesson in a scenario during which she was at off-duty officer witnessing a bank robbery and never had a chance to shoot her gun.

These are split second decisions and they're not easy to make after the simulation Patterson told us, of course, this doesn't change her mind about all police shootings, but it does give her a different perspective.

"When you're actually there and you're in a situation it's totally different," she said.
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