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New Jersey police training putting officers through life or death scenarios

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Josh Einiger takes an inside look at what police officers are faced with during their training in Morris County.

When faced with danger, a police officer may have the blink of an eye to make a terrible choice: to pull a trigger or not.

Now there's new technology to help cops train to make the right decisions, that may mean the difference between life and death.

It's like the biggest video game you've ever seen, but this police training is as real as it gets.

I volunteered to go through some of the same training real cops get at the Morris County Police Academy.

Sergeant Paul Carifi outfitted me with a 9 millimeter Glock modified to shoot only air, a can of pepper spray, and a Taser-like box that would give me a shock, if an imaginary suspect managed to shoot me.

And it turned out that happened a lot.

"You got zapped?", said Sergeant Carifi. "I got zapped," I said.

"It just goes to show you that, in a tenth of a second, which way something's gonna go," he said.

In some cases, a tenth of a second was all I had as I worked through half a dozen scenarios.

There was the biker with loud music and a machine gun.

Two delinquents tagging a wall, and packing heat.

And a guy who surprised me by pulling a screwdriver. I thought it was a gun, and fired so many shots I'd run out of bullets by the time his buddy popped up with a real gun and blew me away.

"What this does is this incorporates decision making into the process," said Sergeant Carifi. "So now the officers are really going through real life scenarios, things that could happen to them while they're out on the street."

The system cost Morris County nearly $300,000, and while it's still too new for any usable statistics, the company behind it says it's especially useful in teaching cops when 'not' to shoot.

Police in Omaha, Nebraska say use of force incidents dropped about 6 percent in the year since they started using the simulator, which is totally interactive.

Sergeant Carifi can escalate or de-escalate scenarios in real time, tailoring the simulation depending on how the trainee reacts.

"You see how many different things you're, one officer, is dealing with at once," he said.

And perhaps most revealing, you see what goes on in the mind of a cop when a split second decision can mean the difference between life and death.

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