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Cover Story

Simulated Use-of-Force Training

What’s to be learned from these fancy scenario-based training tools?

January 01, 2002  |  by Dave Douglas

Some of us "seasoned officers," on one of the few days of clarity we can still muster up, remember the shoot-don't-shoot training in the academy. The instructor tried to crank up the 16-mm projector, and after two new bulbs and 35 ripped up sprockets we were treated to a scratchy motion picture of an LAPD officer who pretended to be our partner. The movie looked like it was jumping all over the screen and was so faded that their blue uniforms looked brown.

Each scenario presented the recruit with a decision-making situation: Do you shoot or don't you? We had a large screen in front of us, and our 6-inch Smith and Wesson Model 10s were loaded with wax bullets. The instructor would stop the projector and turn on the lights after each snippet of film and critique the recruit's reaction.

OK kids, stop snickering at the mulling of an older cop here. And no, I'm not going to tell you that I used to walk a beat.

So now, 25 years later I'm wearing the instructor's uniform. Just how far have we come?

This is Part 1 in a two-part series on simulated training. Next month, we look at driver training simulation.

How Far Have We Come?

Now instead of using a 16-mm projector, screen and a Model 10 loaded with wax bullets, we use a computer, image generator, keyboard, mouse, monitor, CDs or DVDs, LCD projector, screen, laser-recognition camera, shoot-back cannon, tethered weapons with CO2-charged recoil generators and integrated lasers. The tradeoff for simplicity has been variety and depth, along with instructors that need better training.

The new systems have state-of-the-art graphics and they give trainers the option of creating their own scenarios or using the companies' "canned" scenarios. Perhaps the most important development has been the introduction of branching scenarios. The instructor can place the recruit into a virtual world and observe as the student reacts to what is presented on the screen.

The instructor can change the scenario on the fly. With the proper voice command or action, the operator has the capability to change the scenario from a shooting situation to one in which the student needs to re-holster his weapon and use mace, pepper spray or a baton. The instructor can vary the outcome, allowing the recruit or advanced officer to "win" the confrontation or change the scenario from a totally winnable situation into a shoot-out.

The recent introduction of shoot-back technology allows the trainer to make the student pay for not seeking cover or slow reaction. A little pain goes a long way in the training environment. A shoot-back cannon fires a soft rubber projectile roughly the size of a paintball at the trainee. When this soft rubber ball is fired at 300 feet-per-second from 10 to 15 feet away it stings pretty darn good.

What's Out There

Firearms Training Systems, Inc. - or FATS - is the name synonymous with Force Option Simulation. FATS is headquartered near Atlanta, Ga. It has facilities in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, Singapore and Canada. In its 16-year history, FATS has grown into areas of training development, weapons manufacturing, electrical R&D and audio/visual production.

It’s only a screen on the wall, but how you react to this flat image reflects how you would react in the field.

FATS claims to have developed and sold the first interactive small-arms simulation system. Since 1984, FATS has developed and manufactured 200 different types of simulated weapons -  from revolvers to 40-mm cannons. Its simulator products range from inexpensive classroom trainers to highly sophisticated multi-lane systems. Some even incorporate motion platforms for shipboard simulation. They created a library of more than 1,000 scenarios - realistic situations from judgmental training to firing ranges, to mission rehearsals. FATS has an installation base of more than 4,000 units and have been growing both domestically and internationally.

IES Industries USA, Inc. is the maker of the Range 2000 system. The parent company originates in Israel. It is a fully owned subsidiary, based in Denver, Colo. Its focus is to develop and sell advanced multimedia training systems specifically targeted for law enforcement and firearms training. The Range 2000 is a force-option simulator that covers all the aspects of the use-of-force continuum. It can cover classroom theory to highly realistic practice using the entire range of force-option control. Range 2000 offers some systems that are portable. They can be taken to different departments, sub-stations or to community meetings. Set-up takes about a half-hour. That is usually time well spent. When you have a vocal critic of officer-involved shootings in the crowd, just sit them in front of the system, pull up a scenario and see how well they can do. It is not only a real eye opener for the subject but also for the crowd. You'll be surprised how many times the person uses deadly force on the little old lady swinging her purse 25 feet away or how many times they can "virtually die" in shoot scenarios.

A look at the entire simulated training system shows the operator behind his computer changing the scenario in response to the student actions.

AIS/PRISim provides training courses and judgment training simulators to law enforcement and military organizations worldwide. The company combines state-of-the-art computer technology with law enforcement and military tactical and training experience to provide real-life judgmental training experiences.

Through its subsidiary, Nitor Group, AIS also designs and builds anti-terrorist and other special application training facilities for military and special operations groups. It has training installations in 32 countries. AIS' RBD subsidiary concentrates on advanced simulation research for military and law enforcement applications.

PRISim's dedicated installations are designed for law enforcement organizations requiring a central training facility and a fixed training theater. Three different versions provide flexibility by accommodating varying personnel and weapon types, from duty weapons with live ammo to laser-firing variations of handguns, automatic weapons and weapons firing less-than-lethal projectiles.

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