Training gives insight on suspects in officer-involved shootings

SALT LAKE CITY – In the past month, there have been five officer-involved shootings in Utah. This week, agencies from around the state got insight from a behavioral scientist on when to shoot or not to shoot.

Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Institute, taught officers about what may be going on in the mind of a potential shooter.

“You know the opponent, you know the game, and you can predict with a high probability what the result of the next incident is going to be,” Lewinski said.

Nearly 300 officers from across Utah attended the 2-day training class on officer-involved shootings, all without holding a gun.

“It’s really not about shooting and not shooting. It’s about understanding how that occurs,  so that we can better prepare somebody,” Lewinski said.

Officers learn about body language, how and where a suspect may hide a gun and what they’ll look like right before they fire.

The training is sponsored by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Sim Gill says they have a goal of training 1200 officers in three years; this year is the second of the program.

“It’s about that commitment that we made to officer safety and community safety,” Gill said. “Making sure they actually understand what is involved in the psychodynamics of a critical incident.”

And officers say that while the training is different than what they’re used to, they see the benefit.

“The more information we have, the more details that we can get into in these very vital situations, the better prepared we are to actually make the appropriate findings,” said Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Shawn Josephson.

Gill says there will be a hands-on portion of the training, but that won’t be until next year. The DA’s Office plans to buy a state of the art simulator to give officers 360-degree situational practice.

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