SAN ANTONIO – Last week, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar announced new training procedures for patrol deputies and detention officers.
The new requirements come on the heels of the accidental death of a 6-year-old boy caught in the crossfire of a deputy involved shooting in December.
KSAT reporter Tim Gerber was recently invited to attend an intense training session for a group of cadets hoping to become patrol deputies.
The reality based training is designed to put the cadets in stressful situations to see how they use the skills they've learned.
The cadets had spent the first 15 weeks of their 17 week training course learning a variety of tactics. On the day we observed the training, the cadets were putting all of their recently acquired knowledge to the test by running through a series of grueling scenarios.
In the first scenario, the cadets are told to run across a parking lot to simulate a foot chase before engaging in a 60 second fist fight with the suspect. The fight continues inside where the cadet is put into an uncomfortable situation, on his back with the suspect on top of him.
The suspect, played by a deputy, tries to wrestle away the cadet's gun and other tools on his utility belt as instructor Deputy George Barrera reminds them they are in a fight for their life.
"Do everything we've trained you to do to get him off of you," Barrera shouts. "We don't quit and we don't die here. He's going to take you away from your family if you give him the opportunity."
The fight lasts another 60 seconds and is followed by the now drained cadet searching a room for the suspect and confronting him.
When the cadet finds the armed suspect, he opens fire, stopping the threat. He must then explain to his instructors why he used deadly force
The reality based training is designed to be as physically and mentally stressful as possible.
"We give them a stress inoculation in this course and that's what this is," Barrera said.
"We're going to introduce just a little bit of stress just to see how they operate and if we see that is not safe or if it is something that shouldn't have happened, we're going to correct it and then we're going to allow an opportunity for redemption because it's about training it into their muscle memory
"What we don't want them to do is to quit and give up and then die because they quit and gave up. We have a saying that says that Deputies don't quit and we don't die. We want them to do what they have to do to get home to their families."
For the cadets, the training scenarios are as close as they'll get to real life police work while still in the academy.
"Yes it is, it's not the movies it's the real deal," one cadet said. "It's pretty stressful, yes it is. It's mental. It's a lot of mental, a lot of physical, so we just got to be prepared for it out there for an every day life."
In each scenario, the cadets must quickly decide whether or not to use deadly force, failure to do so could result in them or another person being injured or killed.
Barrera hopes the scenarios leave a lasting impact on the cadets that they can look back on when they graduate to patrolling Bexar County.
"Law enforcement is 97 percent sheer paperwork and boredom and 3 percent sheer terror and we have to train them from one end of the spectrum to the other. We have to train them to be able to take a report and also to be on the side of the road or inside a house fighting for their life," Barrera said. "Every scenario that we put them in is a winnable scenario. What we teach and what we preach here at the academy is if you go home at the end of your shift, you've done your job. So that's the goal for every officer."