Train like you fight. It’s a credo we adhere to as much and as consistently as possible, but our EVOC instructors frown upon destroying vehicles, and our firearms instructors insist on paper, steel, and plastic targets.
Consequently, simulators are playing an ever-increasing role in police training, and even in the past five years or so we’ve seen some amazing strides made in simulator technology.
One which stands out, however, is the way in which FAAC Incorporated has merged simulated defensive driving training with suspect-interaction / use-of-force simulation.
An Integrated System
I first saw FAAC’s DrivingForce integrated training system when the concept was introduced at the 2011 ILEETA Conference almost two years ago. In the time since then, the company has done some excellent work to raise awareness for the inherent value that a combined training system brings to the instructor’s toolbox.
In so doing the company has begun to attract the attention of early-adopter law enforcement agencies that have brought the technology in-house, one of which is the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA).
“Anytime you can keep the training flowing, which this allows us to do, you can keep that adrenaline rush going and that creates the realism,” said Lt. Brian Ringer, of the ILEA.
“It’s been terrific for us because it is as realistic as possible short of being in that real situation.”
The training system includes a driver-training simulator and use-of-force simulator, networked together with complementary training scenarios.
For example, a student can conduct a pursuit of a black Toyota pickup truck. At the end of the pursuit, the student exits the driving simulator and engages the subject at the use of force simulator, who has also exited a black Toyota pickup in the same background environment.
The system enables instructors to watch the students’ minds at work so they can correct behavior during the debrief and discussion after completion of a scenario, according to Ringer.
ILEA instructors, which have had the system since August, already have put an entire class (roughly 100 students) through the system. Ringer said students will return to the academy in the near future to demonstrate their knowledge for instructors and he is looking forward to seeing retention levels for the hands-on simulation training.
“We did some pre-testing to see what they were doing as raw students, so now we will engage them in those same areas as part of the post testing,” Ringer explained.
Private Sector Adoption
Academies are not the only agencies anxious to see the benefits of the DrivingForce training system.
“A driving accident can cause claims in all three of our coverage areas, so there is clearly a distinct benefit to provide training in all of these areas,” said Robert Barry, a law enforcement consultant with PRIMEX3, the New Hampshire Public Risk Management Exchange.
“Driving is a high-risk, high-volume activity, and use of force is a high-risk activity as well. The possibility for a catastrophic claim is present every time there is a high-speed driving activity or pursuit activity, or a use of force situation.”
PRIMEX3, a risk pool that provides property, liability, and worker compensation coverage for its municipal membership, knew from the beginning of its search process that it wanted the combined driving and use of force simulator.
“We had staff at a risk management conference and they saw a demonstration [of DrivingForce] and became intrigued by it,” Barry said.
“What we saw as a benefit with the simulator system was not only does it provide driving and use-of-force skills training, but it provides an opportunity to use decision-making skills.”
Barry stated that his organization see a certain number of claims that are not the result of a deficiency in skillset, but of poor decision-making abilities.
“We had a positive response from our membership to the equipment so we conducted a cost-benefit analysis on obtaining the equipment and it worked out favorably for us to acquire the system.”
The staff at PRIMEX3 has developed three separate training programs — driving only, use-of-force only, and combined driving with use-of-force. They invite training officers from across the state into the facility, show them the simulation system, and demonstrate its operation. Then, the training officer makes a determination as to which curriculum would best suit their needs.
“We are providing a tool for them to get whatever they want from it,” Barry said. “Our focus is on reductions in police liability claims and injuries that lead to a reduction in worker compensation claims.”
Enhanced Level of Realism
What training officers and instructors are getting from the DrivingForce system is a realistic encounter not only with a fleeing suspect, a high-speed pursuit, and deploying an appropriate force response, it is showing students what happens inside the officers’ own body.
“There’s a little bit of an adrenaline rush in and of itself because it requires a heightened sense of awareness —it gets the heart pumping,” said Sgt. Daniel Morgalo of the Miami Beach Police Department.
Morgalo said further that this type of simulation shows them the “deterioration of fine motor skills; they get some lecture on it but it is much more powerful to show them and have them experience it for themselves.”
Morgalo, whose department installed the DrivingForce system in July 2012, already has put the department’s 400 sworn officers through the system. Groups to be trained include new recruits during the post-academy training phase, members of the advanced citizens police academy, and roll-call training. In addition, the city fleet is considering developing a driver training class for city operated vehicles using the driving portion of the training system.
The DrivingForce system’s next public demonstration will be as the technology used for the 2013 ILEETA Challenge competition during the ILEETA Conference next month.