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How simulation technology enables officers to train to eliminate active shooters

Scenario-based technology enables police officers to train to respond to active shooters in a manner that is measurable and consistent


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By Steve Tracy, P1 Contributor 

Today’s headlines highlight the need for quality police training to confront active shooters. The threat is real and lives are at stake. Will your department be able to stop an active shooter committing a terrible act in your jurisdiction?

Classroom training only goes so far when teaching any subject. People learn best by doing, not listening or watching, and active shooter response training requires police officers to actually confront realistic scenarios. Active shooter training needs to be hands on and it must be much more than just shooting at the range. In addition to the tactics of active shooter neutralization, there is a level of mental preparation needed as well. There is a vast difference between training to respond to an unexpected threat during a traffic stop and training to respond to an active shooter.

If an active shooter incident arises, officers trained with virtual reality simulators will have the confidence to respond quickly and decisively. (Photo/Pixabay)
If an active shooter incident arises, officers trained with virtual reality simulators will have the confidence to respond quickly and decisively. (Photo/Pixabay)

Logistics arise that make live, active shooter training challenging for police departments. Manpower and scheduling issues, suitable actors to portray victims and offenders, and a suitable building that is available to train in are considerable obstacles to tackle that can thwart active shooter training.

Simulation training is measurable, consistent and efficient

One solution is virtual reality simulation training. Scenario-based technology enables police officers to train to eliminate active shooters in a manner that is measurable and consistent. Systems are available that offer a small footprint so they can be set up in a relatively small training space. These systems are self-calibrating, which means they are fast to set up. Operation is intuitive, which means a 40-hour class is not necessary to teach officers how to control the system before instructing.

When selecting a system, ensure a wide selection of scenarios are available that play out various active shooter incidents. You should be able to run a selection for each officer, leading to a quantitative repeatability that can be measured to document successful training.

With these systems, every officer experiences the exact same scenario as played out on the screen. As subjects are confronted on the screen, the instructor has the option of branching the scenario in response to the officer’s actions. Verbal direction to “Show me your hands” or “Drop the knife” may cause the subject to comply; or the subject may not comply, advance on the officer, or draw a firearm. Shots fired by the officer via a laser system in inert firearms also cause a reaction on the screen. Offenders may continue to shoot if the officer’s shots are not lethal hits. If accurate shots are fired, then the system automatically branches and the subject goes down.

Numerous active shooter scenarios are available that take place in schools, office buildings, warehouses and shopping malls. Officers can be assigned times to attend training while working their regular shift hours. This means they will train in the uniform and with the equipment they normally wear when working. It also means no overtime and eases the burden on each officer because they do not have to schedule training on their days off.

A good instructor can put an officer through a dozen or more scenarios in an hour. That is enough time to teach and reinforce correct responses and emphasize decision-making and tactics. Documentation of each scenario is quick and easy. Officers leave the training knowing they are better prepared for an active shooter incident.

If an active shooter incident arises, officers trained with virtual reality simulators will have the confidence to respond quickly and decisively. There will be a sense of “I’ve been here before and I know what to do and how to do it.” Simulation technology allows police to confront a threat and save lives through training that is as real world as can be taught within a realistic time frame and budget.


About the author
Steve Tracy recently retired from the Park Ridge Police Department (which borders the northwest side of Chicago) after 30 years of service, 28 as a firearms instructor.

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