I profile. I learned that at The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, in the new Use of Force exhibit. When I sense a threat, I’ll shoot a man, but pause for a woman. It’s not conscious. My body just responds unless I override it with my brain. And, there’s no time to weigh options in menacing situations.
The Use of Force exhibit works like this. I was handed a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun (airsoft version). A former law enforcement officer offered brief firearms instruction including safety. Keep fingers off the trigger until necessary, use two hands and aim for the largest mass.
He also talked through police technique … announce yourself, order the perp to drop the weapon and show their hands. Instruction is followed by target practice. For someone who has never shot a gun I did well in this controlled situation.
Then acting as a “new officer” I faced two video and one live-action simulation. In each I had to apply what I learned, then make an instantaneous decision on using my gun.
Though the scenarios are make-believe my adrenaline was surging. I’m competitive and I wanted to win. I wanted to make the right decision and come away reassured of my good judgment. I didn’t want to die. Even fictitiously.
I nailed the first two simulations, judging when to shoot and when to hold fire. Except when a masked burglar had female form. For her I held back. In that nanosecond she shot me. I realized what had happened as I holstered my faux weapon. I judged by gender. I profiled.
I perceived the woman – a video woman – as non-threatening and lost the game. I will argue endlessly that I don’t prejudge. But in a moment of truth I judged by gender.
Maybe I didn’t shoot because I’m also a woman. Maybe I didn’t shoot because I perceive women as less threatening. Maybe I didn’t shoot because she might be somebody’s mother. I don’t really know what happened her or what would happen in reality. And, I hope I never find out.
But this bothered me. I’d like to think that law enforcement officers are aware of their prejudices and trained to overcome them. I’d like to think that male lives matter, black lives matter, all lives matter.
That’s the goal of the exhibit that reaches about 100 people each day. “The Museum wants guests to take away a better understanding the complexities and multiple perspectives around use-of-force cases,” says Geoff Schumacher, senior director of content at The Mob Museum. “Training and exercises are essential to prepare for encounters and make for better decision making. The Museum wants guests who experience this exhibit to leave better informed and prepared to discuss use-of-force issues.”
It worked for me.
When you’re done in the museum, keep the mafia tone going with the museum-and-dinner ticket for Oscar’s Steakhouse at Plaza Hotel. The recently renovated – or perhaps preserved — throwback hotel named its steakhouse after Oscar Goodman, a former mayor and defense attorney who represented numerous individuals charged with organized crime offenses. Goodman led the vision for the Mob Museum and now serves on its board. Dinner includes a cocktail and a three-course menu including 8-ounce filet mignon, chicken or salmon and dessert.