Simulation Training for Frontline Officers

15 July 2015

It’s all over the news. Riots in the streets and increased tensions with police shootings. Debates about use-of-force are in the limelight, and law enforcement departments are being scrutinized for how they train officers for such scenarios. The limited availability of range time, the expense of range facility maintenance, the cost of live ammunition, and a technological evolution in training options have forced agencies to admit that simulated training has become as a more practical and cost-effective option. Training within a simulated environment allows an officer to immerse themselves in a true-to-life scenario that reproduces the same stress they would encounter on the streets. Ultimately this makes officers more effective and better prepared the next time they find themselves in an escalated event.

Today’s intelligent systems
As law enforcement training grows in importance, it is critical that a comprehensive training curriculum be in place – one that integrates marksmanship training and judgmental training scenarios.

Today’s intelligent simulation systems are designed to provide real-time data for after-action reporting on how the shooter performed. The system recognizes officer presence, verbal commands, empty-handed techniques, as well as use of batons, chemical sprays, tasers and deadly force.

Along with an effective trainer, today’s simulation technology can escalate or de-escalate a training scenario based on the instructor’s pre-determined lesson plan and how the student is actually engaging the scenario. These responses, similar to shooting at a target and seeing where the bullet hits, can be seen in replay.

But in simulation training it’s not as much about how students reacted, it’s about why they responded in the manner they did, and their ability to explain their decisions.

“Today’s virtual training systems are about recreating an environment where an officer is forced to make the same split-second decisions in a non-lethal training environment that they may have to make in a potentially lethal or escalated situation out in the field,” explains Eric Perez, Director of Virtual Systems at Meggitt Training Systems.

“What’s critical with these systems or tools is that they are used to their full potential for both marksmanship and judgmental training, and are integrated into a full training curriculum.”

Training to its fullest potential
Meggitt Training Systems’ FATS L7 provides marksmanship exercises, weapons handling, remediation and preparation between qualifications, along with judgmental and use-of-force training.

Using the marksmanship mode, the shooter runs through a pre-determined course of fire on various static or moving imagery depending upon the training curriculum of the department.

Paul Romeo, Business Development Director of Meggitt Training Systems Quebec, strongly encourages departments to use their system to its fullest potential. “From a weapons handling perspective, you are not expending rounds; it’s a teaching tool. You can explain and then immediately train the officer on the basic fundamentals of shooting. The officers can see their shots in real-time,” Romeo says.

“They can see how they are handling and firing their weapon as well as muzzle location and other critical elements for proper shooting fundamentals. With the assistance of an instructor, all of the information that the FATS L7 and the weapon provides helps shooters self-diagnose – they don’t have to expend several hundred rounds trying to figure out what they are doing wrong.”

Numerous provincial and municipal Police services and colleges across Canada use Meggitt’s wireless weapons the company has named BlueFire. Customers like them because of the very “real” feel, and that is because they are real. “These are actual weapons that have been purchased from the gun manufacturer and then stripped of their firing components, which get replaced with electronics that provide real-time data back to the shooter and instructor through the system,” Perez says.

“The BlueFire weapons are critical to true-to-life training,” he adds. “It doesn’t make sense for officers to train with plastic weapons or with magazines that have limitless rounds when that is not the reality out in the field. This leads to negative training.

“Because these are actual weapons, they are true to the form, fit, and function of the duty weapons the officer’s use in the field. The weapons weigh the same, and all the components (such as the safety and trigger) are in exactly the same position as they are on their duty weapon. Realistic training is essential to preparedness when officers face hostile situations in the field.”

In addition to the real-time data provided by the BlueFire weapons, one of the primary benefits of these wireless weapons is the ability for officers to move freely within the training space and still send and receive feedback on the shooter. For departments using a tethered weapon, they are connected by a cable that sends data to and from the weapon, but restricts movement to a fixed location and distance.

Both weapons systems have their advantages, according to Perez, but most agencies are moving to the wireless technology.

How it works
While many departments use simulation systems for both marksmanship and scenario-based training, the majority use them for judgmental and use-of-force training.

The system gives the trainer the ability to induce stress and see how the officer interacts with participants within the video scenario. As mentioned earlier, the trainer can manipulate the situation by escalating or de-escalating the situation depending on how the officer reacts and engages the suspect.

Using the system tablet, the trainer controls the scenario by reacting to the officer’s commands. If the officer reacts appropriately, the instructor can then choose to select a “branch” where the assailant complies. Alternatively, the trainer could choose to see how the officer would react to a use-of-force situation, and select a branch where the officer needs to engage with a variety of tools such as a taser, chemical spray or a baton.

The FATS L7 comes with a library of scenarios ranging from traffic stops to active shooters. Created after much research and consultation with police forces, the scenarios were filmed from the officer’s perspective. When the scenarios were being filmed, all possible outcomes or reactions were also filmed. Called “branches”, they provide a multitude of options for a trainer to test the officer’s marksmanship and judgment skills.

Simulation systems can aid in officer preparedness, de-escalating a situation, and ensuring proper use-of-force. The rapid-response required in virtual simulation scenarios serve the officers well, providing heightened readiness in stressful situations.

© FrontLine Security 2015