Sponsored by AUFIRE
By Warren Wilson for Police1 BrandFocus
“I don’t have to get shot by my gun.” That’s the all-too-common complaint from cadets in response to the news of their upcoming mandatory exposure to pepper spray (OC) and TASER. My response is usually, “If I could, I would.” I mean that. If I could safely provide officers with that experience and make them better prepared, I would do so. There is a reason we require officers to be exposed to OC and conducted energy weapons: We don’t want them to have these novel experiences in the field. We want them to happen in a controlled training environment.
Prior to the Accuracy Under Fire (AUFIRE) trainer, instructors had to come up with creative ways of teaching officers to fight back after being shot, including telling them to pretend the afflicted limb was out of the fight and even literally tying the trainee’s hand behind his or her back. None of them were effective, in my view. The student knows there’s nothing wrong with the “wounded” limb. Having the limb actually immobilized is an entirely different experience.
Watch a video on AUFIRE’s Ambush Survival Course.
Enter Tim Pearce and the AUFIRE trainer. I did a previous article on this training system detailing the history of – and motivation for – its creation. If you want to understand why this is such a passion project for Pearce, please read the story.
Focus on de-Escalation
De-escalation is a key focus in law enforcement today. The community is pushing for a paradigm shift in not only the optics but the soul of law enforcement. Whether that sentiment is deserved or not, it’s what the public wants. I’m fortunate enough to have been certified by the Force Science Institute as both a force science analyst and a de-escalation instructor. The most valuable takeaway from that training is this: Well-trained, resilient, stress-inoculated officers are more capable and confident and less likely to go viral on the Internet for doing something stupid.
Put simply, confident cops are more competent, effective and less likely to fall prey to emotion. As Pearce puts it, “You simply cannot prepare officers to stay in the fight when wounded if you are not training them to confront the stress they will feel in that moment. This isn’t a sadistic call for brutal training, but a call to embrace technological solutions to this problem. This is for their benefit and for the benefit of the communities they police. When an officer knows he or she can take a hit and keep fighting, they are less likely to draw their weapon out of fear in the wrong circumstance.”
Watch L.A. County Sheriff’s training with AUFIRE:
Inoculate against stress
Due to the proliferation of body cameras, trainers are rife with video of officers in stressful situations. The ones that haunt me are those with officers with nondebilitating gunshot injuries who literally lie down and surrender. We’re cops. We do not let violent criminals make decisions about whether we live or die. We must fight. There’s always been a gap there in police training.
Plug gaps in training
We train in weapon accuracy, weapon manipulation, tactics and communications – all the components
leading up to the actual shooting. But then we jump to tactical medicine, learning to apply self-tourniquets, implying we’ve already been shot. See the gap? What about the part where we got shot and the fight was still on? What happens when we’re injured, yet the suspect is still attacking? Before AUFIRE, there really was no way to know how an officer would respond when their number was called. Even the most confident cops still had that question in the back of their mind. The AUFIRE trainer erases that question mark. The shock, distraction and confusion the device causes – all while under duress and the demand to perform – can finally be effectively trained in a safe environment.
The first time an officer experiences the AUFIRE in a simulator, they tend to look confused. The second time, they usually engage the threat, but not effectively. The third time, they almost invariably engage and neutralize the threat.
Dispel assumptions and misconceptions
Any new technology faces assumptions and misconceptions. In the case of AUFIRE, the first question is always safety. The AUFIRE uses a closed circuit for each muscle it affects. It cannot cross the body. Another is that it’s like sticking your finger in a light socket. Actually, it mostly just causes the contraction of a specific muscle with a mere 66 volts of electricity (compared to TASER’s 50,000 volts) which immobilizes the limb. This safely simulates the trauma of a gunshot wound. It’s been extensively tested with sonograms to prove it’s heart-safe.
Bear the scars of training
The most common misconception I hear about this training unit is that it will cause training scars because officers will fail. Well, yes, they likely will. The first time, that is. After a few iterations, they will know they are capable of fighting through the incapacitation and winning. Officers learn to compartmentalize the distraction and focus on the fundamentals of shooting and fighting.
That’s where – as Pearce calls it – “the confidence nugget is formed in their brains.” Officers who experience the AUFIRE learn to react to the injury because they’re able to skip the novelty of the experience and get right to work. In doing so, the reaction time is reduced between the confusion of the moment and fighting back.
What Are People Saying?
I spoke to a few trainers who have experience with the AUFIRE. Paul Clark of Warrior Tactical Systems told me despite doing copious wounded-officer training, this unit “really brought it home” for him. James LaFlamme and Erek Machowski of the Chicopee Police Department in Massachusetts were very excited about the AUFIRE. They described it as the best piece of training equipment to be introduced in quite some time, one that will “change everything.” They envision it being used to train on everything from active shooters to tactical medicine and ambush survival.
Pearce also sent one to my department for testing. We had varying levels of experience in the room. None of us did terribly well on the first iteration, but all of us did substantially better on the second and third. Just as reported.
Get into the specs
The AUFIRE has a five-hour run time and only takes two minutes to set up. It uses a radio signal instead of Bluetooth for increased stability. That signal is not affected by walls, so training can be conducted in large, multiroom facilities. The AUFIRE is a highly versatile training tool that offers plug-and-play functionality. It seamlessly integrates into video simulators, AR/VR setups and real-world force-on-force training with marking ammunition. This adaptability allows for immersive training experiences in scenarios such as traffic stops, building searches, search warrants, ambushes and tactical medical situations. There are other training products out there intended to simulate gunshot wounds, but those versions cause a static shock and do not cause neuromuscular incapacitation (NMI) like the AUFIRE. In my opinion, the NMI is the most important training aspect of the AUFIRE.
Close the Gap
When a felon shoots a cop, they have two choices: flight or coup de grâce. We’re seeing a disturbing rise in the latter. In this case, tragedy led to innovation, and innovation saves cops’ lives. I pray this device becomes a staple in law enforcement training sooner than later.
For more information, visit AUFIRE.com.