Accuracy Under Fire safely simulates a gunshot wound in a training environment
Current police training does little to ensure cops are prepared for such a unique and novel experience as being shot – this product aims to change that
“He fires one round and of course, it goes above my vest into my armpit here. That's the round that ends up bouncing, goes through my lung, bounces off some ribs and then goes into what they call the T-2 vertebrae up here just below your neck. That's the round that paralyzed me…The shooter continues to fire over me, standing over me, shooting down at me. Fortunately, the rounds are hitting my right arm. [My partner] Joe [Meyer] comes up and he fires at the suspect and he hits him five times, killing him, keeping the guy from killing me.” – Kristina Ripatti
On June 3, 2006, Ripatti was one of the Los Angeles Police Department’s brightest, most competent young officers. She was in the top 1% in performance across the agency and considered to be one of the best gang cops on the street.
Before the shooting, Kristina was an avid runner and what we would call today an “extreme athlete.” Still, she and her partner Joe Meyer would protect Los Angeles as a team for the last time that day. Kristina was paralyzed from the neck down just a few months before she could celebrate her third wedding anniversary with her husband and fellow LAPD officer, Tim Pearce. But she did not allow that impairment to stop her. She maintained her active lifestyle as a hand cyclist and participated in several long-distance races.
When Tim first reached out to me about a new training tool he’d invented, I immediately remembered his and Kristina’s story. They’d been profiled on the popular television series, “Extreme Makeover.” There was little doubt it would be a difficult story to tell properly or that there was any choice as to whether to take on the project. I had to do it. Their story resonated with me and countless others across the country.
The story is incredibly moving so far, but this is only the beginning. You see, Tim Pearce was also protecting the city that day. He would hear Joe Meyer’s radio call that his partner was down. Tim would go to the scene and help triage his critically injured wife. Try to imagine what an impact that had on him. He didn’t realize it at the time, but that incident planted the seed of invention.
What I didn’t know
In speaking to Tim about this project, my eyes were opened to just how resilient these folks are. Tim knows what it feels like to be shot at, as well. In 2001, a gang member leveled a 12 gauge at his face from 14 feet away. The lead payload passed by Tim’s head so closely that his face was struck by unburned gunpowder and pieces of the plastic wadding. Pearce literally saved his own life that day with accuracy under fire.
A gap in law enforcement training
Through his experiences and studying other cases of officers being shot, Tim noticed a terrible gap in law enforcement training: We train to shoot. We train to be shot at. We train in CPR and bleeding control. But we don’t really train to fight after we’ve been shot. Sure, we’ll simulate being shot by telling the trainee not to use one arm or by telling them to simulate they’re down. That does nothing to ensure that our cops are prepared for such a unique and novel experience as being shot. Novel experiences result in poor performance both inside and outside a training environment.
It all came together for Tim as he was helping with Kristina’s physical therapy using a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit that fights atrophy through electrical muscular impulses. It occurred to Pearce the same technology could be used to safely simulate a gunshot wound in a training environment. Thus injury simulation technology was born.
What would someone who’d been through events like the above call their 100% American-made training tool aimed at savings cops’ lives? Accuracy Under Fire or AUFire for short.
The unit is a harness and sleeves that are used to remotely disable the limb using isolated electrical circuits that affect only one specific muscle group, e.g., the bicep. Future models are forthcoming for the abdominals and legs. AUFire doesn’t cause pain, but there is some discomfort that results from the limb’s disability. Tim describes it as, “intense, immediate, incapacitating and distracting.” That’s exactly how I’ve heard officers describe being shot.
Is it dangerous?
One of my first questions to Tim was about the potential danger of training with this device. He explained that AUFire uses only 66 volts compared to a TASER’s 50,000 volts and only 35 micro coulombs of energy. You can research it for yourself in the AUFire catalog, but if the technology was dangerous, doctors would not prescribe TENS units for their patients.
There are, of course, some basic safety guidelines. The AUFire (or even TENS units) should never be used across the temples, or neck, on pregnant subjects or those with heart conditions. This equipment should never be used during live-fire training. It’s intended only for use during simulations where all safety protocols are rigidly enforced.
What’s the benefit?
What’s the benefit of this equipment? At first blush, some believe AUFire will create a defeatist attitude among trainees. Tim has found the opposite to be true.
Overwhelmingly, students fail the first time due to the novelty of the experience. That’s how they would have reacted in real life. The second and third iterations teach them that they can overcome and they invariably win the scenario after that. This is exactly what training is: building confidence and competence through experiential learning. Watch some videos of the unit in action here and below. Officers who are exposed to this training realize they can prioritize, focus, react and even shoot with confidence (again, using simulated firearms only).
As I type this, 14 officers have been shot across the country in a span of five days. As in Kristina’s case, many of the felons shot the officer and then attempted to finish them off. That phenomenon has increased dramatically in recent years and will likely continue down that terrifying path.
I find these events especially disturbing due to a general waning of resiliency in the public and, consequently, in law enforcement. Easy times make for weaker people. That’s just human nature. There is something we can do about it, however: Innovate and train. As Kristina said in a 2010 interview, "You can overcome anything. "Nothing is too tough if you put your mind to it, and through dedication, hard work, and commitment you can accomplish anything." That statement demonstrates the courage, nobility and resiliency of the human spirit that led us to the AUFire training system; one more step toward making our cops safer in the 21st century through 21st-century technology.
Visit AUFire at SHOT Show 2023 in Booth #20059.