MARTINS FERRY - Officers from the Martins Ferry Police Department and the Bridgeport Police Department participated in training with the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy's (OPOTA) Mobile Academy.
The training consisted of two simulators that gave officers the chance to go through real-life scenarios. The simulators were set up at the Martins Ferry School Complex. One simulator focused on driving situations such as pursuing suspects and chases. The second simulator consisted of firearm scenarios. Both simulators held a debriefing after each scenario so that the officers could talk about what they did and what they should have done.
The driving portion was operated by Scott Mann, a law enforcement training officer with the Attorney General's office. "This one is called a judgmental driving simulator. It walks officers through various scenarios to where they are doing intersection clearing, working an active pursuit. It works on the mental aspect of things," said Mann. "The purpose is to get officers thinking about these things such as proper intersection clearing. This gives them a refresher because a lot of times officers have not had any type of driver training in years."
T-L Photo / KAYLA VAN DYNE
SHOWN?IS the interior of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy’s mobile driving simulator. Members of the Bridgeport and Martins Ferry Police Departments took part in the mobile training, which involved a firearm simulation as well.
The mobile academy is provided free through the Attorney General's office. The positive aspect of this is that it's easier to send one or two law enforcement training officers out rather then to send officers away for training.
Due to budgeting and scheduling, an entire department is able to participate in the training in a day or two without a causing a huge strain on the department. There are seven of the driving and firearm simulators.
"The officer starts to think about situations again and about how to do proper intersection clearing and pursuits, how they need to drive their vehicles, as well as manage the radio and answer questions. This works on their decision making skills and gives them insight and maybe going back and thinking about situations he or she was in before," said Mann.
According to Mann, the simulator is set up just like an actual police cruiser. Once the officer is behind the wheel, they drive in a virtual world, and scenarios are set up where cars will interact with them at intersections. Mann will also act as the dispatcher, talking to officers as they navigate the virtual world and asking questions.
"The minor drawback to this would be is that the officer has some discomfort when they do this, but everybody can get through that discomfort for the most part - the reason being that the graphics are so good on the simulators that it kind of tricks your mind. Your mind and eyes are telling you that you are moving but your body is not," said Mann. "Everything here in the drivers seat is stationary ... That is one of the main drawbacks is that you don't get that movement."
In the last two years that the simulators have been in use, there has been a lot of positive feedback of the use and affect of this training.
"This training that we received today has put me situations that no other classroom training has been able to do," said Martins Ferry Police Officer Rob Duncan. "I learned a lot more through the interactions and scenarios from today."
The firearms training, much like the driving simulator, consists of several scenarios that gives the officers a refresher on how to handle situations. The firearms simulation was conducted by Wayne Dumolt, a law enforcement training officer as well. Officers were given glocks to use with this simulators which has a laser insert in the barrel.
"We are not here to show you how to hold your gun and how to shoot, we are looking at the next step, it's the mental process of information leads us up to 'why do we pull triggers?' 'why do we use a taser?' 'why do we use force in general?'," said Dumolt. "It is a computer program on the computer screen; however, they can at times change their behavior based off of what you are giving them."
According to Dumolt, communication is huge when officers are out on the street in real-life, so it is huge when working with the firearms simulation. Communication with each other is also important. If you see a gun, don't keep it a secret; let your partner know you see a gun.
"I think it is very good in the respect that we typically get firearm training of 'how do I hold my gun?', 'how do I pull the trigger?', 'what tactics do I use?', but this takes it to that next stage of the mind processing information that leads to judgment of pulling the trigger, so it's not the 'how do I?', it's the 'why do I?'," said Dumolt. "To me, we are training our mind then training our physical bodies. This is the next step as opposed to shooting a paper target."
The officers, which worked in pairs, went through scenarios such as domestic calls, active shooters in schools and traffic stops. Once the scenario played out, a debriefing was held where the officers were able to talk about what they didn't do and why he or she did not take the shot.
Both training officers agreed that officers have done better when they are in their own environment rather then leaving for a few days to go to training.
"I felt that it was a very beneficial training. It was realistic and pertinent to the job that we do; since anything can happen at any time, it is ideal for officers to keep their skills and tactics sharp as well as staying well-trained," said Martins Ferry Police Officer and K-9 handler John Holmes.
Along with Martins Ferry Police Officers, several of Bridgeport Police Officers participated as well. Both Chief Andrew Klotz and Lt. Jerry Delman agreed that the training was very beneficial to the jobs that they do.
"I thought that the training was very informative and interesting. It was very hands on and very interactive," said Klotz. "We also want to thank Martins Ferry Police Department inviting us and allowing us to participate as well."
"The scenarios were good and realistic. The debriefings were great. We were able to talk about our actions during the scenario," said Delman. "I don't think there were really any cons to the training. It is as close to real-life training as we could receive. It was great training, and we actually asked if there would be additional scenarios coming out."
Van Dyne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.