How immersive training prepares cops for real-world situations

Meggitt’s FATS 300LE 300-degree immersive technology places officers in the middle of dozens of stressful situations

An officer pulls over a car that just ran a red light. As the officer approaches, the driver starts yelling that he didn’t do anything and the cop can F-off. This puts the cop on high alert that anything could happen, and he starts trying to calm down the driver and de-escalate the situation. The driver backs down just a bit as the cop asks for his ID and registration.

Then from behind the cop’s left side a citizen approaches with a cellphone in his hand and starts yelling about racist pigs targeting minorities and he is filming the whole incident for evidence. The cop now needs to split his concentration between two subjects and calls for backup.

The officer tells the citizen he is welcome to film the encounter, but to please stay back from the car. Out of the corner of his eye, the officer sees the driver make a quick move and he focuses back on the car. The driver is reaching over to the glove box when the cop hears footsteps and what sounds like a baseball bat hitting an open palm.

Because the scenarios can be repeated and combined in real time by the instructor, trainees can build officers’ muscle memory before they go out on the streets; and it can be reinforced whenever required.
Because the scenarios can be repeated and combined in real time by the instructor, trainees can build officers’ muscle memory before they go out on the streets; and it can be reinforced whenever required. (Photo/Ron LaPedis)

What does the officer do next?

Simulators offer judgmental training

Would you be happy if you knew your aircraft pilot had never flown on a realistic simulator where he or she could be trained and tested on how to respond in any situation? Simulators provide real-time feedback to the pilots and let them retry over and over until they build the muscle memory that it takes to have multiple successful outcomes. That’s important when you have up to 800 lives sitting behind you.

Now take that idea and extend it to policing. Much more than just a marksmanship simulator, Meggitt’s FATS 300LE Law Enforcement Virtual Training System offers 300-degree immersive technology that places officers in the middle of dozens of stressful situations, allowing their actions to be viewed and then modified as required.

The core of the FATS 300LE is five 150” x 84” borderless flat screens filled with short-throw “shadowless” projectors that make up all but one side of a hexagon, plus 5.1 surround sound. Just one advantage of the FATS 300LE is that you are in the middle of the action without your shadow on the screens to ruin the effect. Multiple interacting scenarios can be run at the same time on the different screens, letting you reproduce some or all of the red light stop scenario described at the beginning of this article.

When Meggitt ran the scenario in their Suwanee, Georgia, headquarters, they kept ramping up the stress until the driver’s wife came at me with that baseball bat from my right side, while the citizen was moving from my left side toward the car in front of me. And did that driver have a gun in his glovebox?

Because the scenarios can be repeated and combined in real time by the instructor, trainees can build officers’ muscle memory before they go out on the streets; and it can be reinforced whenever required.

Simulators offer proof of police training

In a world where cellphone cameras and citizen oversight panels are becoming the norm, officers are being held to what may seem like impossibly high standards of interaction. Let’s say a complaint comes in that one of your officers disrespected a citizen. Of course, you can watch their BWC video – if it was turned on – and interview other witnesses.

If the officer’s actions seem reasonable you still might not be home free, but what if you could document that your officer was trained to community standards and passed that training? The FATS 300LE’s look-back function lets you record the actions of the officer as a picture-in-picture within the scenario video, which can be stored as part of their permanent record.

If the officer’s actions aren’t up to standards, or if you have an officer who you recognize has been struggling lately, you can put them back into the FATS 300LE for a checkup. If there are problems, you can retrain until you get the response you require and show the officer how he or she is progressing.

Having trouble with reports not matching BWC footage? Run a scenario, have the officer write up their report and review it with them. Then play back the video and perform a critique. Repeat as needed.

Maybe your jurisdiction voted to allow teachers to carry or is hiring armed SROs. Meggitt has scenarios that will help bring them up to speed. And if you want something a little more customized, all four FATS virtual training systems allow you to add your own videos and scenarios.

Simulators enhance situational awareness

If your officer training focuses only on how to hit a target and (we hope!) how to get off the X, you may not be preparing them for what can happen on the street due to over-focusing on one subject. If you see an officer whose awareness keeps dropping, the FATS 300LE can put sounds or motion at their periphery to wake them up. If they still don’t look up to evaluate the situation, you can have a virtual person take a run at them from the side.

The FATS 300LE can even fire back at trainees using foam pellets along with gunshot sounds to simulate hostile fire to force them to use cover. Yes, the system is big enough to put one or more barriers inside and you can put mats just outside the trainer with real people or dummies that can be used for handcuffing, drag-to-safety, Stop the Bleed or CPR training to complete the scenario after the threat is removed.

You might even want to combine virtual and physical training by having the officer move to the mat and having someone run at them with a rubber knife for some self-defense or firearm retention training (scary clown makeup is optional).

Still an advanced firearms simulator

In addition to its use for training officers on anything from domestic family disputes and traffic stops to school shootings, the FATS 300LE is still an advanced firearms simulator, with the ability to track aiming, shooting and hits using up to 20 Meggitt Bluefire wireless weapons at the same time, including over 300 types of rifles, pistols, machine guns and less-lethal deterrents like a TASER or pepper spray.

You can see exactly when a trainee draws, goes to low- or high-ready, aims, pulls the trigger and follows through. How an officer handles their weapon can escalate or de-escalate a situation and is of utmost importance when facing a hostage situation or a suicidal shooter.

If you have an officer who is struggling with shot placement, the FATS 300LE, like all of the Meggitt simulators, including the soon-to-ship 180LE, can replay the exact motions of their firearm, including if they are canting it, jerking it when they pull the trigger, and how accurately they are getting back on target.

Regional training centers

In August 2018 Meggitt announced that they have the FATS 300LE installed in three regional hubs: Santa Ana, California; Gwinnett County, Georgia; and Miami, Florida. Agencies wanting to see the system in action or try them out are welcome to contact Meggitt for more information.

Click here for more information on Meggitt’s line of virtual and physical training equipment.

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