BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) — When Campbell Police Chief Pat Kelly wants people to put themselves in the shoes of police, he’s not kidding.
In conjunction with Youngstown and Mercy Health Police, Kelly helped to spearhead “role reversal training” where community members got to be the police.
Those who participated took part in a wide range of activities, including traffic stops, arresting a person in a crowded building and shooting scenarios.
Kelly, who also spent over 30 years as an officer and detective in Youngstown before retiring, says the goal is to increase understanding between police and the communities they serve.
“We don’t want to train them,” Kelly said. “We want them to understand.”
Capt. Jason Simon, of the Youngstown Police Department, said the understanding goes both ways. He said the session is a great way for police to learn from residents and what they perceive as problems, besides educating them on how police do their jobs.
For the scenarios, participants were given simulated weapons. Sometimes they shot. Sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes they were shot at before they could react.
After each scenario is completed, officers go over it with the participants, explaining things they may have missed or different ways they could have handled it.
However, the scenarios were all “in the moment,” where participants had to figure out pretty quickly how to deal with a particular person or persons.
In one scenario, the participants enter a building to arrest a man wanted on a warrant. The man hides from police, but his “brother” gives them a hard time and does not allow them inside or tell them where his brother is.
As this is going on, officers outside play the role of a crowd, chiding officers for going there in the first place.
There is always a lot of noise and no one cooperates at all.
In one of the traffic stop scenarios, a man is pulled over for a minor traffic violation and his passenger gives the police more trouble than the driver. Guns are not always shown, but the hint of a weapon is always there for the officers to deal with, and most of the time, it is dark as well. Those playing the part of “suspects,” bend their bodies at strange angles that could mean they are hiding a weapon or reach for their waists.
Bryant Youngblood, of Youngstown, was one of the community members who attended and said the program is an eye-opener.
“It’s a great opportunity for the public to interact with the police and see their perspective and take it back to the community,” Youngblood said.
Kelly said he hopes the training will become a regular event and community members will attend. He is hoping to have it once a month.