In their shoes: Law enforcement simulator demonstrations

The scenario plays out like this: Police receive a late night call that a warehouse is being burglarized. A police officer shows up and finds a man rifling through a desk in the dark.

"Sir, let me see your hands," the officer says to the man. The man refuses and instead complains about the officer’s actions.

"I can’t see you at all. Get that light out of my eyes," the man says. "Is that really (expletive) necessary? I work here."

The police officer repeatedly orders the man show him his hands, which are still concealed inside a desk drawer. Suddenly the man pulls his hands out of the drawer, produces a staple gun and sends a short cascade of staples at the floor in front of the officer.

"How many of you would have shot the man in that situation?" said Todd Williams, a former state and county law enforcement officer and currently a public safety loss control consultant for the Association.

The warehouse scenario is one of many in a law enforcement simulator training system, a high-tech tool that puts the user in the moment. Williams said 80 percent of those who experience the warehouse scenario in a simulated demonstration have opted to shoot the man with their service weapon as he brandished the staple gun.

Police officers face the potential for unpredictable circumstances and emergencies like this every day. A simulator helps teach and reinforce proper use-of-force decision making.

The tool gives users a firsthand understanding of how officers train for such events and offers users a feel for what those encounters entail. The simulator can also help officers learn how to properly document a confrontation for liability purposes.

The simulator allows users to go back and review the scenario and dissect it as a training lesson. It lets officers pick the type of scenario, such as a hostage situation, suicide threat or officer ambush.

Williams said the simulator training stresses de-escalation. This will help cities and towns comply with the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s new policy that emphasizes de-escalation, observation skills and making decisions between deadly force and less lethal force with OC spray, batons and stun guns, such as Tasers.

An Annual Meeting breakout session on Friday will show local officials how officers can be trained using this technology. There will also be 15-minute demonstrations of the simulator on Friday.
Some simulated situations contain language and violence that may be considered offensive to some.