In an effort to continue providing quality officer training, the Ocean View Police Department recently acquired a use-of-force training simulator.
“It’s a great tool for us to be able to gauge performance and make sure guys are performing properly here, making the right decision in this environment,” said Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin. “If they’re having any problems, we can catch them here and address them here.”
McLaughlin said the department had previously been using a similar system owned and maintained by the Delaware National Guard.
“That system was no longer available, and we felt it was a very important part of our overall use-of-force training program that we have in place.”
The new system was installed in the Wallace A. Melson Municipal Building’s multi-purpose room and is self-contained. A computer cart holds the computer and controls for one officer to run the simulator, while an overhead projection system is able to project a 12-by-8-foot image onto a wall.
“They sent somebody here to show us for three days how to use this machine,” said Cpl. Rhys Bradshaw of Ti Training, the company that manufactures the simulator.
Bradshaw said the simulator offers at least 600 scenarios that are organized into various categories.
“Some scenarios — not all of them — have different branches. So the operator can make the subjects do different things — I could have them pull a gun on you, or I could have them pull a knife. I could have them comply with you.”
During a simulation, an officer may use one of the simulator’s three handguns, an AR3 223, Taser, that have been modified with sensors or a service baton (ASP).
“What’s nice is in these scenarios you don’t always shoot. The person will come out with their hands up and we’ll pause it, and have someone go up and stand in as the suspect, and say, ‘OK, go ahead and finish that arrest.’”
Following each scenario, those participating go through a debrief process.
“After every scenario, we always play it back and we talk about it. Basically, who, what, where, why, when? What happened? What force did you use? Was it justified? Was the force effective?”
For instance, in one active-shooter scenario, Bradshaw discharged seven rounds in less than two seconds in order to get a suspect with a weapon to the ground and away from his gun.
“When people ask, ‘Why did you shoot so many times?’ This just shows you how fast I can get rounds off, and that it took that many to get him to no longer be a threat… I think it’s important for people to see that.”
McLaughlin said going through varying scenarios helps officers work on their basic marksmanship but also to work on judgment in the field.
“You have moving targets — you have to look, identify there’s a threat and gauge the threat. It’s a lot of stuff.”
Bradshaw said other police departments have already stopped in to check out the simulator and run through scenarios.
“We want other people to come and use it. It’s not just for us. My backup is not always Ocean View — it’s Bethany, South Bethany, State,” he said. “This will make us all better.”
The department received $36,000 State Law Enforcement Asset Forfeiture Grant to pay for the system, funded through proceeds from auctioned items seized by law-enforcement agencies in the state.
McLaughlin said the department’s new simulator is on the less expensive side of the spectrum.
“This is a very, very inexpensive system. It’s not unusual for these systems to run over $200,000,” he said. “We think it works very well. It’s a really good system.”
Bradshaw said the simulator can help the department train in other ways, as well.
“We sent the company our course of fire that we use for qualifying our handguns. They’re going to load it into this system — so not only are we going to be qualifying four times a year on the actual range, but we can come in here another four times a year and qualify with this. It’s just another way we can become more proficient with our weapons.”
Ti Training can also customize scenario locations for training purposes, as well.
“What we’re going to do in the future is do some filming of our own. What we want to do is our school, all our banks and churches, those types of public buildings,” explained McLaughlin. “We shoot the videos here and send the video to them. We’ll tell them the type of scenarios we want… They have actors at their facility in Colorado who play up the scenario with the green-screen behind them and put that into our video.”
Last month, the OVPD held an Officer for a Day program, in which community leaders were invited to learn about some of the situations that police officers can face every day.
“We’re thinking about bringing the same group of folks back in to do a little bit of this, and run through some of the scenarios,” said McLaughlin.
Bradshaw said McLaughlin has encouraged his officers to use the simulator when they have free time and that the additional training opportunities it provides will benefit the officers and the community.
“We’ve gotten good use out of it already,” he said. “It’s a great machine and helps us become better police officers.”