By Diana Rocco

Thirty Philadelphia Police Academy recruits who are graduating on Friday have been doing simulation training for weeks. It’s all part of a new program which started this spring to teach them what kind of situations they may encounter on the streets. Instructors play bad guys and push the recruits to make decisions in certain scenarios.

“The police officers are going to respond to undesirables on the highway who are gambling and smoking illegal narcotics,” says Sgt. Sean Corbett.

During the traffic stop, instructors are able to wrestle away the cadet’s gun, and they start firing soap-based bullets loaded inside the real 9mm.

“You learn from that mistake, and when you walk out of these doors, that mistake will never happen,” Corbett tells the two cadets.

It was Danteya Trippett’s gun that was wrestled away from her, and she says she didn’t have time to think. It showed her what it might be like in a real stop.

“It felt very real, very quick,” Tripett says.

Captain Mark Fisher runs the Academy. He says these simulations are about applying that training and getting them to think about real life situations; that’s what saves officers’ lives.

“You only learn by experience, by viewing, by doing, and this is reality-based. That’s where the training starts,” Captain Fisher says.

Cadets also use a computer generation that shows Philadelphia places and recreates events that have actually happened. In one scenario, a man carrying a baby starts swinging a machete at officers. The Cadets have to make the split-second decision to fire or keep their gun holstered. In this case, instructors say lethal force is necessary.

The second scenario is another traffic stop. Officers pull over an erratic driver who claims to have a gun, but he does not.

“Sir, get back in the car, get back in the car!” one cadet yells. The man does not comply, but eventually shows his hands.

“My heart was beating. It was scary,” the cadet says.

Academy administrators hope it is scary enough to save lives when this is no longer an exercise.

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