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Last week, officers with the Bennettsville Police Department experienced a number of situations in which they had to make split-second, potentially life-and-death decisions regarding when, and if, to use their weapons.
But these situations didn't happen on the street; they happened in the classroom.
Approximately 30 police officers went through two days of FATS training, conducted by retired NC deputy sheriff John Hawley. 
FATS stands for Firearms Training Simulator. The training uses a projector and big screen to create scenarios that police officers might face on any given day, including an active shooter, a potential suicide and a hostage situation. 
The scenarios are extremely realistic, resembling today's video games that make players feel as if they are actually in the middle of the action and using modified firearms that mimic the weight and feel of actual service weapons. And they are interactive; the instructor is able to personalize each scenario for the individual participant, changing the actions of the people on the screen which, in turn, changes the way the officers react.
In that sense, the training allows officers to hone their skills not just on technical matters like target acquisition, trigger control and sight alignment, but also in interacting with suspects, using discretion and attempting to resolve conflicts.
"A lot of times in our work, we have only fractions of a second to make decisions," said Sgt. Jessie Rogers, training officer for the Bennettsville Police Department. "This training was good because it actually put the officers in scenarios where they had to make those types of decisions. We got to see exactly how they would react."
Rogers said the feedback from officers about the training was very positive. Part of the appeal was how realistic the scenarios were.
"When we go to the shooting range, we qualify with a piece of paper with no face," he said. "This was very good, lifelike training, without anybody getting hurt."

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