A walk in their shoes: Quanell X trains with local police

Quanell X undergoes police training in Missouri City.

HOUSTON - Quanell X is known in Houston for taking to the streets in protest when there is a police-related shooting. So we wanted to know how he would react if he were to go through the same life-and-death training scenarios that police use.

We followed him through training to see if it would change his mind about the dangers officers face every day.

"Wait, wait. Show me your hands," Quanell yelled during a training simulation at the Missouri City Police Department.

The first of four scenarios was a routine traffic stop, where the man pulled over would not follow the officer's commands.

"Show me your hands!" said Quanell.

The viewer can see he's reaching for a gun. The officer can only guess.

"I'll use this, I will use it, show me your hands," he shouts in one more warning.

In this case, he guesses too late. The suspect fires and Quanell fires back, in a hail of "simunition" paintball-like shots.

Photos: Quanell X trains with police

It's a new perspective for the man playing the officer: community activist Quanell X. As the head of Houston's New Black Panther Party, he's led years of protests against police use of force.

But in a training exercise at the Missouri City Police Department, Quanell saw the view from inside the line of fire.

Quanell went through four live-action scenarios that were all based on things that have actually happened.

He had to decide whether to shoot, hold fire, or use a Taser. The experience shook his ideas of what he might do if he were a cop.

"To be honest with you, his hands were straight in the air," said Quanell after one scenario. "How close were you to shooting him in your mind?" asked Missouri City Police Captain Paul Poulton. "To shooting him in the leg?" Quanell answered. "I was very close, because he kept coming."

A video simulation held more surprises, a disturbed man holding a baby charged with a knife, while Quanell tried to use his Taser on him.

"At what point did you actually see the knife?" KHOU 11 News Reporter Alice Barr asked. Quanell answered, "To be honest with you, I never saw the knife. I never saw the knife, but I saw him come out of his pocket with something like this. If he would have pulled a lollypop out of his pocket, the same way he just did, I still would have used force to stop him and then somebody could have said well all he had was a lollipop, but you don't know when it's happening so fast like that."

Quanell says race never entered his mind, but he does admit this: "If I'm in a high-crime area that I've worked, and I know it's a high-crime area and I know the kind of calls we get, I could easily see me pulling my gun quicker, on a simple call, I hate to say it."

He'll walk away, calling for people to comply with police.

"Please brothers and sisters, if they tell you to do something, do it," said Quanell. "When the suspect started being combative or argumentative, I want to pull my gun."

He's shocked at how many shots he fired, something he so often questions in police shootings.

"I think I might have emptied my clip," said Quanell, and standing in a cop's shoes, Quanell wants them to have more backup.

"I think police shootings would go down if you had at least two cops assigned to every vehicle," said Quanell. "You're trying to see everything and guess everything at the same time."

After a lifetime of second-guessing police, Quanell now sees shades of gray in situations that once seemed purely black and white.

"How do you think you are going to change the way you approach the next situation like this?" Barr asked. "You gotta gather the facts," Quanell answered. "As an activist, we want to respond to the family's hurt and pain immediately, but we could possibly respond very incorrectly, if we don't take our time to gather some facts ma'am, because these situations, they go from zero to 100 in a split second."

It's a shifting perspective from one of Houston's loudest voices, thinking deeply about what to say next.

Quanell X still believes many police officers are too quick to use deadly force, and he's not backing off from being a critic when he thinks cops deserve it.

The police officers who ran the exercise say he did pretty well for a civilian, but there are things they would have done differently, given the hours upon hours of more training they receive.

There's a message here for communities and police as the two sides learn to trust each other more: "Walk in the other guys' shoes."


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