CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Touching on topics ranging from cyber security to organized crime to shoot/don't shoot scenarios, the Cleveland FBI invites dozens of people to take part in its yearly Citizens Academy to learn more about the bureau's purpose and procedures.
The 2017 class of about 40 people includes Clevelanders from many different parts of the community. Attendees include fire fighters, journalists, high school principals, business leaders and doctors among others.
Just one part of the eight-week class was training in a shoot/don't shoot simulator. Those in the class were asked to decide, in a series of scenarios, if deadly force is justified.
In the first scenario, a man accused of kidnapping has a knife, and is walking towards the agent/participant.
"All you have to do is decide if your life is in danger or not," said FBI special agent Richard Florence talking to one of the class participants before a scenario.
The training shows a variety of situations that force participants to make decisions and then explain their thought process.
"We're trying to help agents and officers make those decisions quicker, recognize danger signs and recognize those situations where they need to react," said Florence.
"It's a high stakes game for everybody, so I think each individual case has to be, and each individual case will be investigated by a shooting review board and I think I would say wait and let all the facts come out from the shooting review board and see what the shooting review board has to say."
One man accused of trying to hijack an airplane hides behind a pole in front of an apartment building. The video shows him grabbing what looks like could be a gun out of the back of his waistband before hiding. The question becomes should an officer or agent shoot through the pole? Should the agent wait and possibly become a target?
"Let me throw a monkey wrench into this for you. The guy that reaches he turns around and we shoot and then that ends up as a cell phone," said Florence. "Now what? Is that a good shoot if that's a cell phone there?" Florence asked the class. "It's a hard decision to make isn't it."
Another scenario showed a man and a woman who were accused of robbing a bank with weapons earlier in the day confronted by agents.
Florence told class participants to watch the couple's hands.
A large man was shown yelling at agents, a smaller woman stood behind the man inching closer to the man.
It turned out, the woman ended up pulling a gun from the man's waistband and firing on agents.
"It's really difficult to judge at that moment what's going on. This is not a cut and dry situation, ever. It's really difficult," said Florence.
"It's not to convince people again that every officer or agent involved shooting is justified. It's to make you take a deep breath, step back and say, 'wow there are maybe some things I did not consider goes into this process.'"
Anthony said they try to get a diverse cross section of the community in each class.
"We're not trying to get folks to come in and believe the police and the FBI never makes a mistake. That is not the intent. The intent is to leave with a little more knowledge about what the truth is how we actually operate and again going forward how we can make things safer," said Anthony. "It probably would not be a very effective program if everyone who came here was disposed to be pro law enforcement."
He went on to say, "This isn't to create a group of people that are going to leave here, you know marching to the orders of, 'here's what the FBI says and here's how great it is.' We want to learn and to the greatest extent we can, educate and dispel things that folks might have coming in."