Riptide is watching a projection screen inside a chilly classroom with no desks. On the screen, a police officer in a tan uniform talks to a middle-aged man in farmer duds on the side of a rural road. It looks like a scene from the TV show Cops, except Riptide is an officer — me — watching my partner tell the suspect he is going to jail on an outstanding warrant. I also keep my gaze on the little girl sitting in the passenger seat of the man's red pickup truck.
"Please let me just take my daughter home," pleads the man in farm clothes. "I promise to go to the station right after and turn myself in." My partner tells him no-can-do before the truck's passenger door swings open. I see the long barrel of a shotgun aimed at my fellow cop's chest. "You can't take my daddy!" the girl screams.
Wearing a white dress and her blond hair in pigtails, she can't be more than 10 years old. I draw my Glock 17, the preferred sidearm of law enforcement officers, and begin firing at her. I miss, and she blows away my partner. At that moment, the video reenactment of a real-life police scenario ends and the lights go on. Michael Roy, director of the criminal justice program of Kaplan College in Pembroke Pines, congratulates me for acting accordingly.
"Even though you missed," he explains, "you were correct in firing at the little girl. She posed a physical threat to you and your partner, so you had to neutralize her."
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The scenario could have ended in any number of ways, Roy adds, including the girl coming out of the truck without a weapon. It's all part of a course that Roy — a former Miami-Dade Police officer and Crescent City Police chief — teaches his 34 students. "It's designed so they can get familiar with real-life police scenarios," he says, "while also giving them a grasp of what is allowed under the law and what is morally correct."
Instead of a magazine loaded with ammunition, the Glock's bullet holder is attached to a cable connected to a desktop computer and a CO2 tank used to simulate the sliding action when reloading the fire arm. The computer program runs the scenarios and also keeps track of how many shots are fired and if the bullets hit the intended targets.
In another scenario, Riptide was part of a heavily armed tactical team storming a public bus hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists. We succeeded in neutralizing the target this time, but also ended up killing four hostages. A third simulation had us hunting down a scoundrel spraying people with pesticides inside a shopping mall. When Riptide confronted the poisoner, he turned and ran. Instead of giving chase, we tried to shoot him in the back. And missed.
Looks like Riptide is more suited for a pencil-pushing job in law enforcement.