INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Teenagers will be simulating a life-or-death situation this weekend that police officers go through.
It’s organized by the Youth Action Council (YAC). The group is dedicated to building stronger relationships with law enforcement as well as a better understanding of how they do their job.
So far this year, they’ve hosted a meeting where they got to know IMPD Chief Troy Riggs.
“To me that was a way of like, him opening his arms to the community,” said YAC President Jalen Vaughn who is also a senior at Shortridge High School. Next they held “Conversation 5-0” with patrol officers where they discussed how to talk with each other and connect better.
“It was pretty incredible,” Vaughn said. It also helped them come up with the idea of hosting a basketball tournament with police. “It’s things like that that helps us get the ball rolling,” Vaughn said.
But on Friday, YAC’s next event will be more hands on. It’s called “Police Officer for a Night.” The teens will experience the “shoot – don’t shoot” simulator at IMPD’s training facility.
They’ll learn what it’s like for police to draw their weapon and determine whether or not they should pull the trigger.
“I want to learn the things that are running through the officers heads. Just to have that firsthand experience with the officer who’s actually going through it and actually has done it I think will be a big relationship builder,” said Vaughn. “But also a stereotype destroyer at the same time to some of the stigmas that are attached to police action shootings.”
The city’s most recent police action shooting that left an unarmed man dead has been met with community concern, specifically with how it’s being investigated. Many from the public including local pastors are calling for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to release surveillance footage that might let people see how the shooting went down.
“We talk about how the police officers feel, we talked about how we as adults feel, but we haven’t gotten to the essence of how our children feel and their voices matter and we want them to be heard,” said YAC director Charity Lewis. “Law enforcement needs to be humanized and our youth need to be humanized and so we want to break down that wall. We want to disarm the fear that has immobilized both parties.”
Vaughn hopes the training will let participants understand the pressure police face when they have to decide whether or not to use their gun.
“Then only can we say or judge or do what we want to do with the information of whatever happened,” Vaughn said.
How he and the other teens will react to the training isn’t known yet, but just having the opportunity has already left Vaughn thankful.
“The officers are doing this every day. We are lucky we don’t have to do this every day,” he said.
The “Police Officer for a Night” event is Friday, April 15. It starts at 7:00 p.m. at the Law Enforcement Training Academy at 901 N. Post Road. Youth ages 12-18 are allowed to sign up. In order to register, click here. To reach out to event organizers, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 317-661-0782.