HONOLULU (KHON2) –Police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions that could be life or death. So what is it like to face those challenges? KHON2 was invited to join the Honolulu Police Department for a crash course in their use of force training.

What would you do if an armed suspect who just robbed a store, was reaching for a gun tucked in his belt?

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While most people would never be put in this position, it’s a scenario officers are faced with on the job.

Maj. Manuel Hernandez, HPD Training Division commander said it’s an unfortunate but necessary part of the job.

“Our job involves to protect the public, protect the community and sometimes deal with people that sometimes do not wish to abide by laws, follow commands or orders, so force is necessary at various levels,” he explained.

And he said the level of force used at any given time depends on the subject’s level of resistance.

Officers go through extensive use-of-force training annually.

HPD invited us to run through multiple simulations to get an idea of the variables they deal with.

They provided participants with a stun gun and a gun loaded with blanks, and they were given a quick tutorial and safety briefing.

The goal of the first simulation is to get a suspect under control who is in a defensive position.

“We’re not gonna run away, we’re not gonna fight back,” explained Sgt. Brandon Fukuda, with the HPD Training Division. “We just want you guys to try to get the arms out so that we can get them into handcuffs.”

Participants were given 90 seconds.

Even with two people, it was a challenge.

Fukuda said strikes were allowed, with an open palm, to try to distract, weaken and gain control of the subject. He said the quicker officers are able to establish control, the quicker they can provide help.

After repeated verbal commands and struggling with the ‘suspect’ for a minute and a half, the participants were only able to get one handcuff on.

It was exhausting.

According to Hernandez, that’s why getting a suspect under control quickly is important, so they don’t overpower the officer, potentially taking their weapon.

The next drill was a video simulation involving a female burglary suspect with a gun.

“Police, drop your weapon. Put it down slowly,” KHON2 commanded.

The female suspect drops her weapon, but a second suspect appears to the left of the screen and fires multiple shots hitting the participant.

A split-second decision can mean the difference between life and death. And being aware of what is happening all around is vital. The participant didn’t even see the second suspect until it was too late.

The third is scenario-based training, involving a real person acting as a robbery suspect armed with a knife.

De-escalation is always the goal, but when that doesn’t work, officers have to make tough choices. In this situation, the suspect didn’t drop the knife and continued to advance closer to the suspect in a threatening manner. And the suspect was much larger than the participant, making the threat even greater.

Hernandez said officers always have to ensure whatever they do is justifiable and follows the rules, codes and policies.

“We’re responsible for every single round we fire, every single action we take, every single decision and in-action we take, and we’re judged accordingly and held liable for it,” he explained.

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Police hope awareness will help lead to understanding from the community when a use-of-force incident occurs.