Suddenly, the officers spot a man in civilian clothes pointing a gun at another man. The officers crouch, take cover, draw their weapons and point them at the armed man.
“Police, don’t move!” one officer shouts. “Don’t turn around!”
“I am a police officer!” the man in civilian clothes responds, keeping his eyes, and gun, on the man who he says just robbed him.
That dramatic scene — a role-play exercise on Tuesday for recruits at the Police Department’s training complex in the Bronx — ended without gunfire, in contrast to the fatal shooting of Officer Omar J. Edwards in East Harlem last Thursday.
According to police officials, Officer Edwards was in civilian clothes when he chased a man who had just broken into his car. Three other officers spotted Officer Edwards running with his gun drawn. One of them, Officer Andrew P. Dunton, identified himself, and told Officer Edwards not to move, the officials said. Officer Edwards turned around, gun in hand. Officer Dunton fired, mortally wounding him.
Such shootings are something that firearms instructors at the training complex, in Rodman’s Neck, said the department had tried to avoid with confrontation drills like the one on Tuesday.
The sessions are taught to recruits and repeated periodically for officers. On Monday, as a result of the shooting, officers will begin receiving refresher training earlier than originally planned this year. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly ordered that it receive priority over other planned subjects, including courtroom testimony.
In addition, the department is studying Thursday’s shooting and consulting outside experts to see how its drills might be modified. The goal, some officers said, is for the lessons learned in training to override instinct on the street.
“We will tailor some of our scenarios to simulate the actual occurrence of what happened in Officer Edwards’s shooting,” said Capt. Anthony Maida of the firearms and tactics section.
“When they hear behind them, ‘Police don’t move,’ it’s a natural reaction for anybody to want to turn around. I believe what was probably going on in Officer Edwards’s mind is, ‘Hey, great, the cavalry is behind me.’ He probably was tempted to turn around and tell them: ‘Hey I am a police officer. This guy was just trying to break into my car.’ ”
But in tense, fast-moving crime situations there are no guarantees. Officers are charged up with adrenaline and stress. Hearing can be impaired. There are often civilians around, maybe crowds, or people hanging out of windows.
“That is absolutely the worst-case scenario,” said Officer Darren D’Auteuil, a firearms instructor. “And while we train for it, while we try to prepare — you can do all the training in the world and sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
Some minority law enforcement groups and elected officials have criticized what they see as a possible racial element in Officer Edwards’s shooting, saying a white officer might have opened fire too quickly on the assumption that Officer Edwards, a black man, was a potentially dangerous suspect.
Paul. J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said it was too early to tell whether any changes would be made to include more focus on racial differences in the training.
But Captain Maida said the drills already took such factors into account, adding that undercover officers do not look like typical police officers.
“We emphasize to the recruits as well as the in-service members that police officers come in all shapes, colors and sizes,” he said. “So you never know who is a police officer and who is not.”
Officer D’Auteuil, 39, who has taught more than a dozen street- confrontation sessions, played the role on Tuesday of the officer in civilian clothes. When approached by the other officers, he yelled, “I have ID!” He then slowly took it out, taking care to not point his gun at the officers.
“I think,” he said, “we probably did it with a little more emotion today.”
By CHRISTINE HAUSER