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.
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.
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.[PAGEBREAK]
AIS/PRISim also offers a laptop system. It is scaled to the needs of departments with smaller budgets but the equally critical demand for training effectiveness. The AIS/PRISim laptop system provides intensive one-on-one training with specially fitted laser-firing weapons. The trainer's laptop command system can be set up virtually anywhere. The system's plug-and-go projector, speaker and sensor units require no mounting or cabinets and can be ready in minutes.
Laser Shot is one of the newer companies in the law enforcement training field. Its product evolved from developing systems for hunter safety programs. Shortly after Laser Shot was founded in 1997, it introduced the LS-1000 camera. This patented camera system offers technology that up until now was available only with the high-dollar training systems.
The Laser Shot Simulator is dedicated to providing an economical tool in firearms training from basic education to advanced scenario-based training. With an entire system that runs only $14,000, almost every law enforcement agency can afford to train with a high-fidelity force-option simulator.
Laser Shot works with law enforcement on a daily basis to improve the simulator and to help prepare law enforcement personnel. Laser Shot Simulation has offices in Stafford, Texas outside of Houston and in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. In partnership with a psychologist, Laser Shot developed shooting drills that improve performance in gun presentation as well as other shooting skills. Using the drills, significant time reductions are seen in presentation, target acquisition and accurate first-round delivery.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It would be great to announce that we are just a few months away from having the "Star Trek" Holo-Suite, but in reality we are a long way off from developing that technology. Of course, I have the benefit of the crystal ball that was issued when I was promoted to sergeant. The interesting trends in force option simulation break down into two categories, which for lack of better terms can be identified as bigger and smaller.
Bigger Systems, Smaller Systems
The bigger category shows a trend toward team training in multiple-room scenarios. John Zeyen at FATS talked about developing the Weapons Team Engagement Trainer or WTET system.
In this type of multiple-room training, a pair of officers or a tactical team would be given a scenario by the trainer. For example: Respond to a house to a report of domestic violence. As the officers approach the door they hear a woman screaming, "Please don't kill me!" They call out the appropriate commands and admonitions and enter the house. They hear more sounds coming from a room down the hall. As they enter the room, they see a man with a gun to the head of a woman.
Sensors on or in the screen recognize the officers' presence. Additionally, they detect whether the officers have a position of cover or concealment. If the officers are not in a good tactical position, the system automatically takes on a scenario where the man points the gun at his unconcealed human target and fires. The system will register a hit or miss. It also identifies whether the officer is wounded or dead. If wounded, the pager each officer is wearing loudly and rapidly beeps. If the system registers the officer as dead, the pager gives off a continuous "flat line" tone and it shuts off your gun. If the officers have not sufficiently handled the situation, the shooter runs off to another part of the house and the encounter continues.
The smaller systems category shows trends toward miniaturization. The guns will have wireless cellular technology built into them. No more tethers back to the computer. The system operator can create failures-to-fire to test officer recovery skills under stress. Additionally, the entire packages will become smaller and be more easily portable. Alan Winslette of Laser Shot says his company has a system with the approximate footprint of a laptop computer and takes less than five minutes to become operational.
Trainers continually hear the cry that force option simulation will never take the place of real shooting on the range. This is usually from the more technically challenged among us.
In fact, it's just not supposed to. It's apples and oranges.
Shooting at the range develops the hand-eye coordination necessary to perform the highly technical and perishable skill of shooting. Some safety, tactics and stress training can and should be included in a good range training program. Force option simulation training develops decision-making skills. One is a physical skill, the other is a mental exercise. Cops need both. The combination of these skills is needed to give us an edge in the field when we are presented with potentially deadly situations.
For More Information
IES Industries USA, Inc.
Dave Douglas is a sergeant on the San Diego PD with 25 years of service. He uses force-options training on a regular basis in the in-service training division.