Behind the Badge: The emotional impact of drawing an officer’s gun

Behind the Badge

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In the escalation of force continuum, a moment of truth occurs. An officer out in the open, exposed, screaming at a suspect to show his hands – surrender.

Things don’t always go according to plan though.

When you wear the badge, every day on the job is a life and death roll of the dice.

Officers across Middle Tennessee work each day to protect and serve their community. Each one brings their own unique story with them. But there’s one constant they all live by, pull your gun, and everything could change.

Cheatham County Sheriff, Mike Breedlove, says there is an emotional effect from drawing your weapon, “I don’t know of any police officer who wants to use deadly force. Especially to take a life.”

“If you make a decision to pull that gun, subconsciously you have to commit to taking a human life,” says Portland Police Chief, Anthony Heavner.

“[A] majority of law enforcement officers I know don’t want to ever draw their gun and use it,” says Lt. Shannon Heflin of the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Commander Scott Ryan, of the Hendersonville Police, says you have just mere moments to make a huge decision, “We’re having to evaluate those decisions in split seconds, to determine is this necessary and justified.”

Lt. Ken Miller is a veteran detective with the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office. “You get focused on your target, but not so focused that you are not aware of the other surroundings.”

On January 14th, 2013, a man with a knife came at his partner. Miller had a fraction of a section to decide what to do next, “It was a very bad situation, the person died…I didn’t have a lot of choice at that point but to fire my weapons.”

Though Miller was acting to save his fellow officer, the result of situation is still something he thinks about. “You always think about it…You think about what their family is going through. There’s not a day I don’t. I wish things didn’t happen. I wish things had been different. You get half a second to make a decision, if you are lucky, that you will have to live with the rest of your life.”

In a special News 2 series, officers open up about the perils of their job and how they cope with danger on a daily basis.

You can check out more from Behind the Badge here.

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