After watching recent fatal police shootings in California, Oklahoma, and North Carolina garner national media attention, one sheriff invited reporters from local news outlets to experience for themselves “the difficulty of a split-second decision” officers make.
The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department in South Carolina filmed the reporters being thrust into policing scenarios and handling simulated traffic stops and encounters that quickly turned violent.
The video went viral after it was posted to the department’s social-media channels on Wednesday. In it, reporters can be seen firing mock weapons at armed aggressors and describing how the exercises made them think differently about officer-involved shootings.
“We rarely hear from the officers after a shooting happens because of a whole host of reasons, but I just think this gave me the perspective that I needed to even more fairly report on these kinds of things,” Joyce Koh, of local CBS affiliate WLTX 19, said in the video.
“While other people have hours and days and weeks to review body-cam footage and dash-cam footage, you have to make that decision right then, right there and go with your gut and do what you think will get you home at night,” ABC Columbia’s Beth Rousseau said.
Watch the video below:
The video prompted a flurry of response on the department’s Facebook page. As of Friday, it has been viewed nearly 6 million times and received tens of thousands of shares.
Users’ reactions were mixed, with some lauding the effort to coax media into understanding police officers’ perspectives. But many others questioned the exercise and wondered why the video’s emphasis was on armed aggressors, rather than unarmed black civilians – as was the case in the recent fatal shootings of Alfred Olango in El Cajon and Terence Crutcher in Tulsa.
“I notice that in all the videos shown here, the ‘perps’ all actually pulled guns. I don’t believe that’s the case in the vast majority of police stops,” one user, Brian Otto, commented.
While the department’s video only shows scenarios in which the perpetrators were clearly armed and ready to fire, Sheriff Jay Koon told Business Insider the reporters did handle more ambiguous situations, including aggressive but unarmed or “mentally agitated” individuals.
Those clips weren’t in the department’s video due to “time constraints,” Koon said, but some were included in the reporters’ segments they later aired.
Koon added that each scenario the reporters were put through was based on actual calls the department’s officers have responded to.
“We believe the few hours they spent in our training session (on Wednesday) will provide valuable context to them as they report on the next officer-involved shooting covered by their outlet,” Koon said in a statement.