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How to buy training simulators

Among the greatest technological advances in Law Enforcement is the tremendous evolution in training simulation technology. During the last 20 years or so, Law Enforcement trainers have employed an array of new simulation devices — from driving simulators with unique auditory and vibration systems that enhance the training environment to new graphics-based firearms training systems with advanced auditory effects. If your department is looking to upgrade its training simulators, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Learning Objectives: We have found over the years that learning objectives change with each new iteration of departmental policies and procedures, as well as with progression in the way people teach and learn.

Without having learning objectives outlined or stated in your training programs, progression and failure are hard to record. Being goal-focused and being able to document your objectives is vital to training.

The concepts of learning objectives will impact simulation training as well. Many older generation simulators have preset and designated learning objectives. Newer simulators don’t have that limitation — no longer will you be limited to using the simulation systems to teach officers use of force. Ideally, you want simulation systems capable of utilizing learning objectives to create use of force scenarios, critical incident management scenarios, complete courses for administrative personnel, scenarios for public safety professionals in your city, public education scenarios, etc.

2. Educational Simulator Platforms: Manufacturers are designing simulators to be as real as user’s regular life. We are breaking away from the typical shooting programs and entering a new era called “enhanced education” through the use of Educational Simulator Platforms (ESP). These new platforms helped evolve simulation training systems from shoot/no shoot to programs that challenge the user’s judgment and decision-making abilities in use-of-force simulation systems.

Judgmental use of force simulation systems should be able to handle multiple students with multiple devices in the training environment. Currently, limitations in detection methods usually allow for a maximum of four un-tethered devices. (In the near future that will jump to 16 un-tethered devices.) Each device will be definable by the operator and will track according to the student to which it was assigned. For example, you could have 16 shooters at once and the computer will track who fired each shot and where that shot impacted. Alternatively, you could have 8 shooters, each with their own O/C spray, and or 4 shooters, all of whom has an O/C spray, a TASER, and a shotgun! This is in addition to a flashlight for simulated low light operations.

3. Presentation Options: Many simulation systems can be used as presentation platforms and media exchanges. Many also have database functions that connect with a large variety of database management software or function as a stand alone database with more reporting capability than a typical agency will ever use. By ensuring you have these options, you will be able to distribute current and accurate information as needed.

Instructors should also be able to immediately poll an audience with pre-determined questions designed or those you created.

Classroom training software is now available and can be used with a course of instruction pre-designed by either the instructor or an outside company. With this software, you will be able to preserve the quality of your own past instructors and experience, and have this information available at your own fingertips.

4. Checklist of Questions to Ask:
• What is the service warranty on this equipment?
• What is the training time to train the officers on how to use this equipment?
• Do you provide any training in maintenance, operating and troubleshooting this equipment?
• What customer service support can I count on after our purchase?
• What additional charges if any for upgrading on new software?
• What is the difficulty in filming my own simulations in our areas?
• What other programs and training software is offered with this system?
• How does it document our training for court purposes?
• What other force options are equipped to operate with this system?

Do you have any other suggestions for officers purchasing and evaluating training simulators? Please leave a comment below or email products@policeone.com with your feedback.

PoliceOne Columnist Dave Young contributed to this report.

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