LPD uses training tool to increase awareness, response

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 13, 2007

LINDEN &045; It is a routine traffic stop. A red, late model car pulls to the side of the road. Linden Police Officer Tony Gary asks the vehicle’s lone occupant, a middle aged female, for her license, vehicle registration and the pistol permit for the chrome revolver partially hidden under her leg in the seat.

The woman, who claims she is an off duty police officer, reaches up to her visor. As she turns towards Gary, he fires two quick bursts &045; she has pulled a second pistol from above her visor.

Gary won’t be filling out reports on the incident, however, because, as the woman slumps into her seat, the screen goes blank. Gary was participating in an interactive scenario that the Linden Police Department has on loan to teach its officers how to remain alert and respond when situations involving hostility occurances.

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More specifically the system is provided through the Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation and Municipal Worker’s Compensation Fund, which are part of the ALM, said Laduron. He said it is a tool used to help prepare officers for the dangers they may face in the field.

Laduron gives the decision for how each scenario plays out while sitting behind the console of the system’s computer. He is also situated behind officers, who face each scenario as they play out on a large screen covering the back wall of a room in the Linden Fire Station, preventing them from knowing what will happen next.

Gary’s next scenario involves a domestic violence dispute and as the situation progresses he is faced with a couple that has turned its aggression, once focused on one another, on the officer. As they attack, Gary opts not for his pistol this time. Instead he pulls out pepper spray and unloads on the outraged couple.

To keep the situation as lifelike as possible, the officers using the simulator must make the same verbal declarations to those they face in the system as they would use in the field. They must respond as nonviolently as each situation allows, though in several scenarios require lethal response. Another feature of the system, which allows for a more real to life feel for the officers, is the gun used by the program.

Along with the look and feel of real weapons officers use in the field, the guns used in the scenarios shoot real to life and after each sequence officers can watch a replay detailing where each shot hit or missed their target. The program even takes into account the lethality of each shot and adjusts the scenario accordingly.

Laduron said the department will have access to the program until it is picked up and sent to another department associated with ALM. He said each officer would come through and run through the different scenario programs that come with the system. He added that all but one Linden City Council member has already come through to observe the program.

As officers train with the system and gain the skills to respond to situations that escalate to worst-case scenarios to the everyday officer in the field. From routine traffic stops gone wrong, to being the first responder on a highly volatile situation, to domestic violence, to bank robbery, the system prepares officers for worst case scenarios leading to the use of their weapons that police officers pray they are never faced with. They are trained to respond in a way that could save their lives or the lives of those they face in tense encounters.