Flying bullets & bad guys: realistic training for Cape Town cops

Cape Town - Adrenaline runs high as the traffic officers stop an errant motorist in Ndabeni. He climbs out with his hands up and all seems to be resolved.

The next moment a man in camouflage pops out from his hiding place in the back seat and fires at the cops. Bullets fly across the abandoned road.

After a scuffle, being disarmed, and lots of shouting, the two officers have both baddies on the ground.

Thankfully, this is just a training session at an abandoned abattoir in Cape Town. And the ‘bad guys’ are their colleagues.

But it’s realistic enough to leave your hair standing on end.

Training with the US’s DEA

And every mistake is imprinted as a bruise, caused by modified bullets with soap detergent tips.

That’s kind of the point with the specialised training that the United States department of justice is offering local officers through its Drug Enforcement Administration.

“It’s about making mistakes and getting a do-over because once you’re on the streets, your decision is final,” an instructor explains beforehand in a strong American accent.

His identity cannot be revealed for security reasons.

Dressed head to toe in black in the boiling African sun, he watches as his colleagues and the officers take off their safety masks and discuss what happened.

A female officer explains that she and her partner need to stick together more and communicate better. There are nods all round.

“You guys did a great job. I wouldn’t mind rolling with you,” comments another instructor.


The officers  in action. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Making sound judgements in stressful situations

In the last year, 71 officers came under attack across the city. It is hoped the training will ensure metro police, traffic and law enforcement officers make sound judgements in stressful and highly dangerous situations.

Officers also get tested on their knowledge of laws and procedures. Facing a projector in a room, they run through various filmed scenarios and have to decide whether to fire or not.

A laser in the barrel of a pistol registers hits on the screen. The officer then has to explain their actions to an instructor.

It’s not as easy as it looks, as the city’s safety and security mayoral committee member JP Smith found out. He managed to disarm a bank robber, but his accomplice shot him from a nearby balcony.

“We’ll see if the journalists are more trigger-happy than the politicians,” he joked.

Even though it clearly was not the real deal, the simulation caused trembling knees and a pounding heart rate for this journalist.

One cannot help but respect the officers putting their lives at risk every day on the streets.

Watch the training below:

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