PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J.- In a time when the news cycles are filled with headlines about school and or mass shootings, police officers need to train to respond quickly and effectively for a variety of potential events.
Not only do law enforcement officials need to train, they need to do it often enough to retain the skills they absorb with each training session.
The Picatinny Arsenal Police Department (PAPD) uses a concept that the U.S. Army adopted several years ago, "train as you fight."
Simply put, "train as you fight," means that you would not go into the heat of battle without proper intensive training for real-world combat situations. Thus, U.S. Army units implemented consistent training to help Soldiers focus and prepare for challenges they may encounter. This means constant drill and exercise.
The PAPD has acquired a simulation system for weapons training that allows law enforcement to practice a wide range of scenarios that can unfold in different ways, depending on how the user reacts.
"This is a form of continuing education for the officers,"said Sgt. Michael Turner, lead police officer and active shooter combat operator with the PAPD.
The training system, produced by a company named Meggitt, can put officers in realistic situations that require split-second decisions.It can also be used for general marksmanship training and qualification purposes. Officers can work on breaching and tactical entries, or negotiating to diffuse a situation.
The scenarios range from a traffic stop, to responding acall about domestic violence, workplace violence, and more.
Donald Meyer, acting PAPD police chief, envisions the possible use of the system by outside agencies as a mutual aid benefit to partners.
"Since our law enforcement partners off post provide us mutual aid, if needed, it would benefit both Picatinny PD and our partners to train together on the simulator," Meyer said
Essentially, the Meggitt system looks like a large video game simulation. But its purpose and role in law enforcement training and preparation are anything but fiction. The officers' weapons are real, but no live ammunition is used in the training. Instead, rounds are counted and disbursed electronically with each trigger-pull, just as they would be in a video game.
The current arsenal includes the M4, M9, and shotgun.
The 8' x12' screen displays the scenario to which officers respond. Everything is controlled by and hooked up to a portable computer system, which allows up to 20 weapons to be registered to one system, and up to four weapons to be assigned to each student.
Judgment training uses high-definition video scenarios to produce dynamic escalation and de-escalation, or use-of-force training. This requires the user to observe and react to verbal cues, facial expressions and overall body language to quickly assess a situation and interact with individuals using proper verbal commands. The scenarios incorporate whole-task training that facilitates the transfer of skills learned during simulations into real-world situations.
Patrolman Brandon Convery, a former police officer in Clifton, is currently serving as a military police officer in the U.S. Army National Guard. He worked two years as security guard at Picatinny before transitioning over to become a patrolman with the PAPD. Convery is one of several officers currently certified to operate the Meggitt system.
"I can control the entire scenario based on how an officer responds or reacts. The same scenario can have a dozen different outcomes. Ifthe officer is not responding with the correct verbal commands, things can escalate quickly," Convery said.
Other real life "injects" can be placed into the trainingfor even more life-like training. The weapons can jam without warning, forcing the officer to react they would in real life. An officer may need to reload his weapon, or run into bystanders or hostages. Nothing is certain.
"If my weapon jams, that instantly changes the dynamic,"said Patrolman Luke Lyons, a Marine Corps veteran now working with the PAPD.
As if the scenarios were not challenging enough, Convery and his team can turn up the heat. They can use a paintball gun to fire back at the responding officers, adding to the sense of reality.
The entire simulation is recorded on cameras. The captured footage can later be replayed for evaluation and or training purposes. The results, such as how many rounds were fired and hit/missed, are also calculated and available immediately after scenario. An analysis of the officer's trigger-pull and squeeze can also be used to analyze how a situation was handled.
"Traffic stops are very dangerous for officers," Lyons said."Conducting training here, internally, helps take the edge off. Training can help keep officers safe, so they can go home to their families every night."