Maximizing use-of-force simulators in law enforcement training

In order to maximize efficiency and deliver the highest quality training to our personnel, I believe simulator programs should include several, equally-important components

As the Lead Instructor for the San Jose Police Department in both the perishable skills delivery of the Force Options Simulator as well as the Force Options Simulator Instructor Course, I am a firm believer in the use of simulators in conjunction with live-fire training. 

The two programs coupled together increase officer safety tactics and reduce agency and personnel liability. 

In order to maximize efficiency and deliver the highest quality training to our personnel, I believe simulator programs should include several, equally-important components:

1.) Refresher Lecture
A program delivery, whether delivered in sessions or in a single day, should begin with a refresher on use of force terminology, codified law and case law. 

A standard line of attack being implemented by plaintiff’s attorneys is to question the officer’s knowledge of case law as well penal codes. For instance, an officer may be well versed in applying solutions to problems, yet have difficulty regurgitating penal codes on the stand. 

One major purpose of the judgment simulator programs is to increase the confidence of our personnel. Increased confidence reduces hesitancy, and improves proper decision making. Periodic refreshers serve them well in this regard.

2.) The Safety Brief 
The cornerstone of any training program is safety. This does not change with the implementation of Use of Force Judgment Simulators. 

In our departmental program, we conduct a redundant search of all personnel (including instructors) for errant weapons that may have entered the training area. We then incorporate the safety brief into a tour of the simulator room. Abilities and limitations of all items present are discussed, as well as a thorough encouragement to carry all scenarios to a law enforcement solution. 

To this end, we utilize a Cuff Man dummy provided by Dummies Unlimited. This inexpensive — yet essential — piece of gear allows officers to employ impact weapons, personal body weapons, and cuffing solutions. 

3.) Delivery of Scenarios
Our program delivers three distinct scenarios to each participant — a deadly force scenario, a non-deadly force scenario, and one of the instructor’s choice. 

Obviously, we strive not to implement a pre-prescribed response to simulated situations. One of the major items any simulator program should strive to address is stress inoculation. An effective, detailed debrief of the student’s performance serves this goal well. 

Officers finding themselves under extreme stress must be able to produce a trained response, not a startled reaction. Effectively drawing out their perceptions through articulation is an excellent way to desensitize them to the stress they encountered while negotiating the scenario. 

The most difficult aspect of conducting an effective debrief is not inserting a personal opinion. Instructors must strive to see the actions of the student through the lens of reasonableness, as opposed to what action they may personally have taken. 

While conducting scenario deliveries, I cannot overemphasize the need for a ‘buy-in’ from students. Nothing erodes this more than allowing a marginalization of the training. Allowing such comments as “It’s a video game” or “Put a quarter in the machine” do not foster a positive learning environment. 

Certainly do not allow instructors to facilitate this attitude by their actions or comments.

Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated and proven the effectiveness of Use of Force Judgment Simulators. When incorporated into a well-rounded perishable skills firearms training program, the results are well grounded in our favor. 

Courts demand it, administrators in a position of defending agency practice should appreciate it, but most importantly our officers greatly benefit from the value of these simulator programs. 

One cop using reasonable force early as opposed to hesitating due to a lack of confidence is more than enough motivation for me to run an effective program. 

Be safe brothers and sisters.

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