By Guest Columnist Todd Brown
Why does it always seem to take so long for good ideas to come to fruition? Man had ideas for powered flight for millennia but it wasn’t until a little over a hundred years ago that this idea was finally realized with the Wright Brothers historic flight in Kittyhawk, N.C.
For law enforcement, the idea of simulation training has been around for quite some time. In fact, law enforcement trainers have used simulation technology to help combat the top two liability concerns for all agencies: driving/auto accidents and use of force.
Unfortunately, driving and use of force simulation training have developed independent of one another despite the obvious need for cross training. As we all know, police officers transition from vehicle patrol to public interaction (and vice versa) every day they are on duty. Why then doesn’t simulation training offer this type of advanced cross training?
The idea for fully integrated driving and use of force simulation training technology is past due. The good news is that this idea is finally starting to take shape. Several forward-looking instructors and agencies have already begun turning this idea into reality.
These instructors and agencies are the forefathers of a new technology that will enable fully integrated driving and use of force scenarios that allow instructors to put officers into realistic situations they face everyday. They have realized officers go everywhere with their use of force options on their belts, and that it is their patrol car that gets them there. Sgt. Michael Edwards, lead trainer of the Orange County (FL) SO, said it is the belief of his training staff that, “No one walks to a gunfight.”
Although several agencies have created and executed lesson plans involving both their driving simulators and use of force simulators, one of the first was West Covina (CA) PD. According to West Covina Officer Dennis Maslik, his department had their officers drive to a call on the driving simulation system, exit the vehicle and proceed four or steps to their use of force simulator to participate in a judgmental use of force scenario as early as 1995.
By combining the two systems in a single training session the officer has a much more realistic experience as it relates to patrol duties. These officers are doing exactly the same things in the training room that they do on duty: receiving and responding to a call in their patrol car, conducting an investigation, a field interview, making a simulated arrest or even implementing a level of force necessary to gain compliance from a subject. One of the most valuable components of this type of training, according to Sgt. Robert Reid with the LAPD, is that, “It takes the officer from the beginning to the end, rather than compartmentalizing the training.”
Many agencies that use both driving and use of force simulation technologies in tandem require the student to be outside of the driving simulator at the beginning of a training session. This requires them to enter the vehicle, engage the safety belt, start the car, look for traffic, navigate to the scene, exit the vehicle and engage in a scenario. (Some officers have even forgotten to unbuckle themselves from the driving simulator when trying to exit. This is a lesson they are unlikely to forget when on duty.) There can be little dispute over the value of this type of training. Nothing more closely matches what officers do during a patrol cycle.
However, tandem driving and use of force training is not without its limitations. These limitations must be considered when evaluating whether or not to implement this type of training at any agency.
First, logistical problems such as the locations of the simulation systems in relation to each other must be addressed. For example, West Covina PD has a room divided by a moveable wall, which enables the systems to be used separately (wall in place), or in conjunction with one another (wall removed).
Additionally, appropriate props should be designed for the training session. If a trainee performs a traffic stop on the driving simulator on a rural highway, then transitions to a use of force scenario, a typical U.S. Postal mailbox found on city curbs would not be the appropriate prop for available cover to the officer. As interactive simulation systems continue to become smaller and with a little forethought and planning these and other logistical problems should be easily solved.
Second, no single manufacturer has yet created a fully integrated driving and use of force simulation training system that seamlessly transitions from driving to use of force scenarios (and vice versa). By using disparate systems to conduct tandem training, trainees would most likely experience inconsistencies (and possible confusion) between the two training simulators.
For instance, while on the driving simulation system the trainee may arrive at the location of a business. But, when facing the use of force scenario the business in the video is not the same as the business on the driving simulator. Or, the trainee may pull over a yellow sedan on the driving simulator only to face a blue minivan in the use of force scenario.
Finally, no scenarios have yet been authored such that the use of force and driving scenarios are part of one, cohesive training objective.
Sgt. Reid stressed the importance of agency-level authoring capabilities.
“This would allow agencies to recreate actual events within the agency, or from around the country, from the time the officer received the call until the situation was resolved,” Reid said.
Authoring capability on an integrated system would even allow a scenario where an officer drives to a call, resolves the situation, is dispatched to a new call, drives to the location, resolves the situation, etc. This type of training would very closely match actual working conditions for patrol officers.
The solutions for the last two problems are technologically possible–both driving and use of force simulation technologies are advanced enough that a forward-looking company could integrate these systems and allow for scenario design that takes into account both driving and use of force issues. With these integrated driving/use of force training systems, agencies could provide some of the most realistic, cost effective training ever received by officers.
One company that has taken the first step towards true integration of these two types of simulation systems is Arotech Corporation (NASDAQ: ARTX). Arotech owns both FAAC, Inc. of Ann Arbor, Mich., a leading manufacturer of vehicle simulation technology, and IES Interactive Training, USA of Littleton, Colo., a provider of use of force training products that develop judgment and decision-making skills for law enforcement, military and government professionals.
These two sister companies have combined resources to produce a fully integrated driving and use of force simulation system that allows agencies the ability to author cohesive scenarios and provide for seamless transitions from one system to the other.
Greg Otte, president of IES has stated, “Police officers often find themselves in situations where vehicle stops can escalate into something more than a traffic ticket. IES’ goal was to create a training system where officers can practice such scenarios in a safe, controlled environment so that they know how to correctly react when confronted with the same situation while on duty.” This program has the potential to radically change the way we currently view simulation training.
Additionally, a fully integrated driving and use of force simulation system would enable agencies to conduct training to a variety of audiences. For instance, this type of training could easily be combined with your normal field training for new officers. This would undoubtedly help the new officer learn radio codes, procedures for specific calls, vehicle positioning and a host of other duties.
Since this new system gives trainers authoring capability, they will have the resources to easily create scenarios that test their officers in pursuits, patrol, code responses and normal calls for service. An agency might even choose to get their dispatchers involved in the training and have them communicate to the student from the time that the student is behind the wheel until the student has resolved the situation and is back in service.
While never a replacement for actual field training, emergency vehicle operations course (EVOC) training, live fire training or other use of force training, an integrated driving and use of force simulation system would enable agencies to provide a comprehensive simulated training experience for their officers. It would also allow trainers to document the agency’s training program, which could be a strong ally in a legal setting.
The idea of a truly integrated driving and use of force simulator is a now becoming a reality. There is no longer the need to merely imagine the possibilities. Instead, we can turn these possibilities into integral components of any law enforcement training program.
About the Author
Todd Brown has more than ten years of experience in training federal, state and municipal law enforcement agencies on judgmental use of force in simulated environments as well as in live fire environments. Brown has also trained agencies in Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and several agencies in Europe. He holds instructor ratings for various use of force applications such as Baton, Firearm, Chemical Agents, Taser, etc. Brown is a member of the National Tactical Officers Association, the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, as well as on the technical advisory board of the Force Science Research Center. Brown is the Chief Trainer for IES Interactive Training, manufacturers of the MILO Training & Presentation System. Brown can be reached by e-mail.