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How to Buy UOF training simulators

Before your agency purchases a UOF simulator, consider why you are purchasing them in the first place


Training simulators are computer-controlled products designed to give officers realistic situations for the purpose of building skills by imitating real life processes using a simulated environment. For law enforcement officers, they are generally use of force (UOF) simulators. 

The RPG (that’s role playing games, folks-not the weapon) gaming industry has benefited the UOF simulator industry. The quality and smoothness of the graphics, along with a completely different level of branching-changing scenarios based on the actions of the user-gets better every year. 

The other thing RPGs have given us is the portability of the units, critical for agencies who cannot dedicate the room to training. Good processors allow the refresh rate to be higher and the image buffering to be more efficient, making motion to look more natural. Poor integration will make everything look herky-jerky.

Questions to Ask
“How easy is it to transport and set up?” is a question you should ask before purchasing, by the way. Another important question is a little more complex. If one cannot implement the agency’s UOF policy in the scenarios, consider a different product. Most have standard programming, but what if your department has a policy against shooting at a moving vehicle and the simulator has a preprogrammed response? Third, the ability to upgrade is important. It is usually advantageous that the system uses common components that can be purchased at a computer parts store. 

Before your agency purchases a UOF simulator, consider why you are purchasing them in the first place. Although it may look like it, your agency is not just acquiring a high tech video game. The purpose of UOF simulators is to provide an agency with documented, defensible training.

What’s the most critical component of UOF simulators? Your product must produce consistent scenarios that are easily documented and can be demonstrated in any hearing in a manner that communicates the due diligence of the agency. Without documented training, the product is just electronic sculpture. 

The tertiary benefits of UOF simulators make the things priceless. For example, your agency may have a particular scenario that is unique to your enforcement needs, like waterborne operations. Training for it is expensive or impractical, because it requires the resources of several agencies at once. A UOF simulator may have the capabilities of addressing the training without taking your personnel out of the area. 

Your agency might be able to reduce training costs just by doing a pre-qualification using a simulator, using a “virtual firing range” option. 

Finally, a UOF simulator is a great public relations investment. Critics of police use of force can be given a “mini-course” on police tactics. Historically, these types of critics figure out quickly that their criticism is not well founded. 

In other words, “Finding out you’re not as smart as you think you are — priceless.” 

For grant money, agencies should also think outside the box. A quality UOF simulator can also be a driving simulator. The combined purchase power of city or county services (fire, probation, CPS, Waste Management) can augment the purchase price. Thinking further outside the box, Human Resources can use a UOF simulator for sexual harassment training or similar scenarios.

Some products use a laser device inserted into the duty firearm or a SIRT Training firearm. This allows officers to train with their duty gun or something that fits in the holster.  Using the same gun means practicing with the same trigger. 

Here are some guidelines:

Good
Display: The suspects and backgrounds resemble 80’s science fiction movies. 
Input: The product provides the scenarios. 
Scenarios: Pre planned, pre-programmed branching. Records that user has discharged a weapon or tool. Sim Suspect does not respond when shot. 
Weapons: Products uses their own guns which look like the agency’s guns without violating a patent. 
Stations: Single user stations. 
Screens:  One screen

Better
Display: Projects life sized images on a screen. 
Input: The vendor can upgrade the scenarios at the client’s request. 
Scenarios: Records location of shots and shot timing. 
Weapons: Product uses officers’ firearms, with a slight modification. 
Stations: Ability to upgrade to multi stations. 
Screens: 120-180 degrees (usually 1 screen on each side of the shooter, plus one in the front)

Best
Display: Projects life sized images on a screen.
Input: Users can input video recorded locally using common formats like .avi and .mpeg. 
Scenarios: Multiple training stations for team training. Records effectiveness of shot. 
Weapons:  Non tethered, integration of less lethal and force transition options, using the officer’s own firearm that fit in the officer’s holster. 
Stations:  Multiple integrated stations, or the capability to integrate the activities of multiple officers.
Screens: 360 degrees of viewing (usually 6 screens)

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