By Scott M. Bruner
PoliceOne Product Editor
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has officially put their new HYDRA training system online. Although there are 53 HYDRA training centers in the world, this is the first one operating in the U.S.
What does HYDRA do? It's almost easier to ask, what can't it do? According the LAPD, HYDRA is an immersion-based, experience-building training center that can literally simulate nearly every conceivable disaster scenario. Scenarios pre-programmed into HYDRA include complex crime scene investigations, terrorist attacks, public disorders, and natural disasters.
"This is basically a flight simulator for police," Sergeant Timothy Kalkus, Officer in Charge of LAPD's HYDRA Operations said. "Anything you can dream of we can build into the system."
The LAPD recently conducted their first HYDRA simulation at the end of March, simulating a bomb threat from a homegrown terrorist unit. HYDRA includes a training suite that includes computers, cameras, and microphones which are used to imitate real world events. Its capabilities are impressive, from how it trains police management to how to deal with the dynamics of real world incidents. Results are then reviewed and analyzed.
"In the simulation room, there's a large screen and a HYDRA computer. We can feed videos into the room, newscasts, intelligence updates or briefings, replicate phone calls, police radio traffic – even paper feeds. Anything you can do in the real world, you can do in the HYDRA simulation," Kalkus said.
HYDRA was created by Dr. Jonathan Crego who was a professor of psychology in Britain when he designed the first system in 1996. It's been in use for several years for the London Metropolitan Police Services, and there are centers in Ireland, Canada and Australia. The LAPD believes this training system may provide a significant step forward for incident training technology across the U.S.
"This could be a paradigm shift for how police management trains within the next 15-20 years. This fills a supervisor training gap that we've seen happen over the last few years. This helps train management on how to react in the field," Kalkus said.
The LAPD's HYDRA simulator was funded by the Los Angeles Police Foundation with major backing from Target Corporation and the Annenberg Foundation.
“While this is the first HYDRA in the United States, it is certainly not the last," Dr. Crego said. "When local agencies partner to develop a HYDRA training center, every partner agency in the region can benefit at a fraction of the cost.”