Texas Grand Jury's Use Of A 'Shooting Simulator' Questioned After Police Cleared In Every Shooting Incident Over The Last Decade

from the to-acquit-a-cop,-you've-got-to-think-like-a-cop dept

We’ve discussed the multiple problems with the grand jury system here in the US — a system that only survives in a handful of states. Grand juries are known both for their expedience and their willingness to indict nearly anyone for anything. True, they don’t decide whether a person is guilty or innocent, but an indictment is the next best thing to a verdict for those indicted, many of which are imprisoned until they can be properly tried.

The grand jury in Harris County, Texas has an additional tool at its disposal, one not in use anywhere else in the state.

The armed carjacker projected on a large screen threatens to kill you if you don’t give up your keys. Holding a modified gun that emits a beam, you pull the trigger when he draws his weapon, and seconds later fire again at another person who jumps in front with something in his hand.

The second person turns out to be a bystander holding a cellphone.

This interactive way of illustrating the use of deadly force is part of unusual training that Houston-area grand jurors can receive before they begin hearing cases, including those involving police officers.

This shooting simulator (which appears to be “Mad Dog McCree: Law Enforcement Edition,” at least according to the published photo and the description above) puts grand jury members in the shoes of accused police officers. Grand juries may be able to indict ham sandwiches, but this particular grand jury has reached the conclusion that, despite derogatory slang linking the two, police officers are not ham sandwiches.

[A]n investigation by the Houston Chronicle last year found that Harris County grand juries have cleared Houston police officers in shootings 288 consecutive times since 2004.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any data on the simulator’s effect on non-police shooting indictments. That the cops have been cleared 288 times without an indictment may not have as much to do with the shooting simulator’s empathetic capabilities as it has to do with the grand jury being a grand jury.

Sandra Guerra Thompson, a criminal law professor at the University of Houston Law Center, said grand juries usually give officers the benefit of the doubt in shooting cases because of the dangerous nature of their jobs.

The problem is that the more this benefit of a doubt is given, the less likely it is that officers will use training or restraint when in unsafe situations. If a teen answers the door carrying a Wii remote, they’re free to open fire before ascertaining that the held item isn’t a weapon. Harris County’s shooting simulator plays into that mindset, inserting jurors as proxy cops into situations they’re not trained to handle and using those visceral reactions to guide their indictment decisions.

So far, the courts have sided with the use of the simulator. The DA’s office finds it to be “educational and helpful.” Opponents say it promotes “pro-law enforcement bias.” Sadly, these viewpoints aren’t contradictory. Most DAs would find anything that locks “bad guys” up and keeps “good guys” on the street “helpful.” A “pro-law enforcement bias” achieves these aims. And the track record — 288 consecutive findings in favor of police officers — speaks for itself.

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Comments on “Texas Grand Jury's Use Of A 'Shooting Simulator' Questioned After Police Cleared In Every Shooting Incident Over The Last Decade”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is one of many reasons why...

I support secession, because Texas is full of racists, bigots, religious fanatics, xenophobes, homophobes, creationists, misogynists, gun fanatics, and every other kind of useless waste of perfectly good protoplasm. (Many which are the products of Texas’ school systems, some of the very worst in the country. And given the competition, that’s saying a lot.)

But I think we should keep Austin. Perhaps we could disassemble the city brick-by-brick and relocate it to someplace in need of an artistic and musical influx, like, hmmm, Iowa. Or West Virginia.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: This is one of many reasons why...

Cruz? Are you kiddin’? He talks a good game but he’s establishment, believe me. Give me a leader who will fight for the people, not the party, and certainly not for ideology that hasn’t worked in the TWO HUNDRED YEARS.

Anything based on SELFISHNESS is doomed to fail because selfishness is NOT a virtue. Self-reliance, yes. Self-sufficiency, yes. Self-determination, yes. But institutional narcissism to the extent that many Americans wonder why people hate us for trampling all over them? Hell, no.

Cruz, Romney, Christie… they’re all about policies that make the rich richer, the poor poorer, and the rest of us suspicious of each other.

The Dems, who have their snouts in the corporate trough, are no better. Choose a third party that isn’t a fringe break-away from one of the main parties. /End rant.

Anonymous Coward says:

I assume this simulator uses the same (few?) scenario(s) in every training session, which are most likely nothing at all like the actual situation which resulted in use of their weapon. I doubt the simulator is customized for each and every case, although I have been wrong in the past. The question is, how does this so called training help or influence the jurors in their efforts to reach a conclusion?
Is an armed carjacking perpetrated by a man in his twenties the same thing as a 93 year old woman handling a weapon in her home?

Yeah – everything is big in Texas, including the bullshit.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Benefit of the doubt then needs to run in both directions

First, are those thugs wearing police uniforms?

Moving on, a huge problem with the scenario outlined in the article is that police officers are supposed to be trained in these situations. Someone unable to get out of grand jury duty is going to have an increased adrenaline flow, faster heart rate, confusion, extra fear, etc. in a situation that a police officer is supposed to know how to handle. If the grand jury is basing it’s assessment of the situation on their reaction, their standard is way off.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Alternate explanation?

That’s not Tim’s narrative, of course, but what I really wanted to point out is that a good case can be made that most (not all) cops aren’t good cops. While I’m absolutely sure that a small minority of cops enjoy shooting people, it’s also true that the vast majority of cops do not come out and condemn or push for the punishment of cops that are clearly bad. That failure makes them bad cops, too.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Alternate explanation?

Or … it could be that most people are good people and don’t like to kill people indiscriminately.

Your statement, both before, and after the ‘changes’ I made to it, is accurate, however, only one group gets special treatment when they gun/beat someone down, either accidentally or on purpose, and it’s certainly isn’t the general public.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Alternate explanation?

Tim praises good cops when he gets the chance.


When I call out law enforcement officers for brutality, excessive force, moral turpitude and a general contempt for citizens’ rights, it’s not because I think all cops are bad. In fact, I know the job is often thankless and unpleasant. Many officers only deal with the kind of people we all hope we’ll never run into, and they do it day after day. Even when a cop does his or her job well, there’s a chance he or she will be criticized for any perceived missteps. (Quite possibly by me…)

Give the guy a break, he’s telling the truth, damn it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Alternate explanation?

It’s easier to attack the messenger than address the message though, and to admit that all the ‘anti-cop’ articles are actually ‘anti-corrupt cop’ articles would force the ‘Cops are always right and never do wrong’ group to admit that yes in fact, there are corrupt cops out there, abusing their authority and making all the other, non-scum cops look bad, and that the proper way to deal with them is not to just brush their actions under the rug and pretend they never happened, but point out, address, and then hopefully fix the problem that allows them to continue their actions without penalty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Conservative in Texas here...

Texas is still better than the rest of the Nation and for good Reason!

However it is true that my state collectively rushed to suck Bush’s dick over the creation of DHS and 9/11 BS.

I expect this State to be overrun by illegals within the next couple of decades though and when Texas falls, the rest of the nation will be harmed by it as well because we have a very diverse economic footprint.

Looks like between the cowardly conservative Bush dick suckers and destroy the USA liberals… yea we are in for a war.

AjStechd (profile) says:

Maybe we presume too much

People presume Police are here to protect them and that their superiors keep a watchful eye on them. They presume the courts will keep police in check should entire departments get out of hand. This just isn’t the case (any longer) especially in large metropolitan areas. There’s a reason the avg IQ of police has declined while steroid use has increased. The system WANTS thuggish intimidating police forces and equips them both mentally and physically towards that end. By eliminating any real oversight and consequence, we’re sitting in the “sweet spot” of tyranny, at least for these types of organizations. It’s when the people aren’t quite mad enough to stand up and physically fight back, but that’s already beginning to change. The government has been feverishly prepping for a fight against the people, militarizing even small town forces, shoot first mentalities, zero tolerance toward any citizens that dare not instantly comply, demonizing any group that could pose a threat etc.
So why is this happening? Could it be a predictable financial collapse is just around the corner? A constitutional rewriting or circumvention that will create too many pesky patriots that will need to be dealt with? Could it be just a well intentioned government preparing for the worst by creating atmosphere of fear and intimidation? The bottom line is that it’s not just Texas, this is being encourage on a national level and the spotlight we notice happens to be on Texas this time.

Anonymous Coward says:


On one had it seems perfectly logical to allow the jurors to put themselfs in the shoes of the accused. If I could see myself reacting in the same manner in the same situation then I would see no fault with that reaction.

On the other hand, LEOs should be held to a higher standard than your average citizen. Comparing the reaction of a well trained LEO who sees danger DAILY to the reaction of an average citizen who might see danger once in a lifetime is simply absurd.

I think showing the jurors a video of LEO training that explains how they are trained to identify good vs bad in the heat of the moment would be a much better way to put the jurors in the shoes of a LEO.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Equally and unbiased

With such a system in place, it would be interesting to see how it changes the effects on other shooting cases, if used in the same manner, and one change that would help make things fair(I assume they’re not already doing it this way anyway), would be if the jurors using the simulation are not told whether the shooter was a cop or a regular person.

In fact, ideally the jurors shouldn’t be told the accused is a cop at any time during the process, let their actions stand on their own, without allowing them to hide behind their badges.

zip says:

how about a REVERSE simulator for cop-killers?

In the issue of fair play, I propose that anyone charged with shooting a SWAT cop during an invasion of their home in the middle of the night also gets to show the jury a simulator: one that compares a home invasion by robbers yelling “Police” with a home invasion by real cops — and the players get a split second to make up their mind whether the nighttime raiders are armed criminals about to kill them or police serving a warrant.

I bet that the conviction rate would change from 100% to 0% overnight.

KRA says:

Just today, a student in my class made a joke about wanting to chase some hallway idiots away by threatening them with a ruler. Someone asked, “Can the police shoot you for running after someone with a ruler?” Without hesitation, I said, “Yes.” I recounted the story of the police officer who was cleared after he killed a wheelchair-bound man wielding a pen. Of course, that was Texas, too.

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