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George Floyd's Death Puts Focus On Police Use Of Force; A Look At The Issue In Ventura County

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KCLU's Lance Orozco (right) in the Ventura County Sheriff's Office use of force simulator at their training facility in Camarillo.

A convenience store is being robbed at gunpoint.  It’s the type of dangerous situation that a law enforcement officer on the Central or South Coast could face without warning on any given day.  How do you respond to it?

The Ventura County Sheriff Office’s Training Facility in Camarillo helps officers throughout the region mentally prepare how they will deal with that type of issue. A virtual simulator gives new officers a chance to learn about the appropriate use of force, and current officers can brush up on it.

Today, though, some members of the media, and officials with the Ventura County Chapter of the NAACP are experiencing it, to see the sensitive subject through the eyes of officers potentially facing life-and-death situations.

The use of force by law enforcement has been an issue for years, but is receving new attention in recent weeks following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police.

Sergeant Jason Lewis, with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, says ideally, officers come into a situation and resolve it peacefully.  Like virtually everyone in law enforcement who’s seen the video of Floyd’s death, there appeared to be no justification for what happened.

One of those seeing what it’s like facing these scenarios is Regina Hatcher Crawford, the President of the Ventura County Chapter of the NAACP.  She says they have tried to meet regularly with law enforcement leaders to address issues like racial profiling, and use of force.

Crawford says Ventura County is small enough that they can sit down, and have real conversations with the law enforcement community.

Lewis shares Crawford’s frustration over things like Floyd’s death.  He says law enforcement agencies across the country successfully handle millions of calls every day with proper protocols, but a few incidents cast a negative shadow on the profession.

Crawford says going though the virtual simulator allowed her to see how dangerous, and stressful it can be for officers to handle high risk situations.  She says part of her mission is to help officers see the other side of the coin, which is what it’s like to be a person of color stopped by police.