How police train for stress on the job

SAPD: Stress and use of force

SAN ANTONIO -- Their job is to serve and protect. With that job comes intense pressure and stress.

On Thursday, the San Antonio Police Department gave KENS 5 an inside look at an officer’s physical reaction when they pull the trigger.

They opened up the training to be transparent so the community can understand better the moments before and after an officer uses force; especially after the last few months in light of the officer-involved shootings and protests that have swept across the nation.

"We are figuring out the science that impacts an officer’s performance," said Dr. Brandi Burque with SAPD Psychological Services.

"It's important for people to understand how difficult this job is," said Jay Norten, head of the Law Enforcement Integirty Unit for Bexar County.

The training is focused on stress. For example, during a shooting it's easy for a person's heart rate to reach 175 beats per minute.

That’s when a person can freeze, have tunnel vision, and hearing issues.

"That's why [officers] do so much training, so the officers can continue to perform," said Dr. Melissa Graham, adding that the officers are trained to overcome that physical response.

Graham also works with SAPD and helps conduct these trainings every week for cadets and officers.

To demonstrate how the brain reacts to pressure, the psychologists showed everyone a collage of photos for five seconds. Then they asked the group what they say. Most everyone's answers were different. A majority only seeing one gun when, in reality, there were two.

"People can see the same thing differently. It doesn't mean people are lying and covering up," Norton said.

Members of the district attorney's office said that this is important when deciding if an officer should be charged, and could help explain why, in some cases, an officer's account can vary from witnesses and video.

"We know if they are more in control they are going to handle things better. They will see the bigger picture," Graham said.

(© 2016 KENS)


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