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How to Train with Simulators

If you want to get the most out of sim training, take it seriously and be aware of what the sim can do.

January 01, 2006  |  by Dave Young - Also by this author

The MILO processor from IES lets trainers create their own branched instructive scenarios for the company's Range 2000 and Range 3000 law enforcement simulator systems.

Anyone who has ever watched “Star Trek: The Next Generation”—that’s the one with Picard, not Kirk—has probably noticed a special room on the Enterprise called the “Holo-Deck.” The Holo-Deck uses holograms, transporters, replicators, and other unlikely science-fiction technologies to create an immersive virtual reality that can be used by the Enterprise crew for both recreation and ultra-realistic training.

Today’s law enforcement sims are a far cry from Star Trek’s totally immersive Holo-Deck. But they are becoming more and more valuable as training tools. And they’re only going to get better.

Versatile Reality
The evolutionary path of law enforcement training sims has been from simple systems that presented officers with shoot/don’t shoot targets to high-powered computer systems that allow instructors to create their own scenarios.

New simulation systems will be capable of training anyone on any topic, anytime, at any location. Simulators offer instructors and students the benefit of all three aspects of adult learning: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (muscle memory).

The result is that law enforcement trainers are now rethinking the ways that they use sims for officer training. And we are now entering a new era of enhanced officer education through educational simulator platforms.

The questions that trainers and administrators have to ask themselves about simulator training are numerous and serious. For example, are simulators designed to take over your training? Are they designed to replace or enhance the instructor? Can simulators really replace physical instructors? After reading this article, you should be able to formulate some of your own answers to these questions.

Training with Sims
There are many training goals that can be achieved using computerized simulators. For example, other than role-playing and force-on-force exercises, using sims is one of the best ways to train officers how to react to rapidly developing incidents.

You can use a sim to learn how to talk to and approach an unruly drunk at a traffic stop, or to practice how to respond to an active shooter, and, of course, sims are great for shoot/don’t shoot training.

But all sim training sessions are not created equal. An effective sim session must have a learning objective; otherwise this expensive, high-tech equipment becomes nothing more than a video game.

For example, an instructor may use a programmable sim to explain an agency’s shooting policy and reinforce that policy in the minds of the students. Being goal-focused in your training sessions and documenting your objectives is vital to effective sim training.

You should also distinguish between big goals and little goals. Learning objectives are basically chunks of skill-oriented instruction that can be used to build the student’s proficiency and knowledge. Students and instructors should think of each sim session as a way to teach or learn one chunk, one objective.

If you think in terms of learning objectives when conducting or participating in a sim training session, you will be able to get the most out of the session. But if you don’t have learning objectives outlined or stated in your training programs, then you will have difficulty judging your performance.

And remember, regardless of how much thought the instructor has put into planning a session, it’s critical that the student take the session seriously. This is training. It’s not a game.

More Than Training

One of the things you will realize when you train with today’s innovative law enforcement sims is that they are no longer just tools for teaching use-of-force scenarios.

The latest sims can be used to teach critical incident management scenarios, courses for admin personnel, and even scenarios for other public safety professionals in your city.

In addition, new technologies will allow simulation systems to be used as presentation and media exchange platforms. They will likely even have functions that will connect with a large variety of database management software. This will allow users to employ the sim as both a training tool and an intelligence tool.

A Little History
The law enforcement training sim has come a very long way.

The modern law enforcement simulator was born about 20-odd years ago when Jody Schecter approached the staff at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Ga., with plans for creating a driving simulator for law enforcement. Schecter left that meeting and decided that FLETC needed a computerized firearms training sim more than it needed a driving sim. The result was the Fire-Arms Training System (FATS) produced by the company of the same name.


FATS offered the first police sim. Today, it's still on the cutting edge with its BlueFire technology for untethered weapons.

FATS was first but it wasn’t alone in the market for long. Other companies soon developed computer-based law enforcement training sims. And these became much more sophisticated as computer processing power and computer graphics technology advanced. The result was that simulation training systems evolved from shoot/don’t shoot scenarios into scenarios that required trainees to make a variety of use-of-force decisions.

Still, the one thing that computerized training sims couldn’t do was shoot back. They still can’t, not in any realistic way. But for about seven years now, the Prism system from Advanced Interactive Systems (AIS) has offered an option that forces trainees to take cover during a simulated gunfight. AIS’s Return Fire system shoots small nylon balls at the student during scenarios where the suspect is firing.

The MILO processor from IES lets trainers create their own branched instructive scenarios for the company's Range 2000 and Range 3000 law enforcement simulator systems.

The latest innovation in law enforcement sims is the ability of the agency that buys the system to program its own scenarios. For example, IES Interactive Training offers the Range 2000 system, which features the MILO processor that can be easily programmed by the user, and the Range 3000 system with MILO, which can be programmed by the user and also features Advanced Debrief and the A2Z Classroom Trainer with Advanced Trainee Action Capture. The features of these systems give trainers the ability to create interactive environments for teaching officers a variety of tactical skills.

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