Armed with cap guns and the usual apprehension, two recruits from the New York Police Academy knocked on the door of a set in the Bronx meant to resemble a down-at-the-heels apartment. They had just received a radio assignment from an instructor: 911 had taken a complaint about an “E.D.P.” — an emotionally disturbed person — in their sector. They were told to report to the location and advise.
As they entered the apartment last week — “This is the police!” — three more instructors in bluejeans started to enact a not-uncommon situation: The disturbed man, rejecting pleas to take his medication, suddenly pulled a knife on the officers and his own family. With hands at their holsters, the trainees had to improvise: They talked the armed man down, radioed for backup and hurriedly escorted the family out the door.
All the while, injecting real stress into the simulation, 30 of their classmates watched from above. Ringed around the railings of a balcony, their fellow cadets were looking down at them as if from the mezzanine of an Elizabethan stage.
The drill took place in what is called the Tactics House at Rodman’s Neck, the Police Department’s firearms training center in the Bronx, and it ended that day with nothing graver than a few bruised egos and some pointed words from the instructors. But in late September, a chillingly similar situation in the real world did not turn out as well.