KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Protecting the public is the mission of the FBI. Every agent goes through countless hours of training in the classroom, on the range and using a less familiar method called a judgmental shooting system.
In a sense, the system is a giant video game. It puts the agent in a dangerous situation, like an active shooting, which an agent may see while out on the job.
“As soon as it starts to unfold you find yourself not thinking about anything other than what is going on in that scenario,” said FBI Special Agent Gary Rizzo.
The scenarios test judgment, putting agents in the middle of mock bank robberies, school shootings, hostage situations and even terror threats. The simulator trains agents for situations they may see while out on the job.
“Whether you have to fire or not fire, we’re called on to draw our weapon when we feel like our life is in danger or someone else’s life is in danger and to make split second decisions while we’re doing that,” Rizzo said.
A second may mean life or death, which is a factor people quickly catch onto while going through the simulator.
“It’s not as easy as people think, you’ve really got to make split second decisions that involve life and death,” said Rizzo.
However, agents aren’t meant to pull the trigger every time. FBI Special Agent Scott Johnson controls the scenario on his computer, changing the suspect’s movements based on the agent’s actions.
“If they give good direction, good commands, I can make that a no shoot situation. Or, if they fail to give good commands, I can escalate the threat,” Johnson said.
“They have to justify their actions, justify if they used deadly force and why and how it falls under the FBI deadly force policy,” said FBI Chief Counsel Marshall Stone.
If agents think someone will kill or seriously hurt them or others they can act.
“Agents are sweating, they’re winded, their respiration goes up, their fine motor skills go down a little bit,” said Johnson.
Even for veteran agents, the drill is taxing.
“I’ve been doing this for a very long time and still I’d be lying if I said my adrenaline didn’t get up a little bit, even during the scenario,” said Rizzo.
However, agents know it’s better to fail in the simulator and succeed on the streets.