Police officers respond to a public drunkenness call in a back alley during the daylight. As they are trying to communicate with the subject of the call, a shooter ambushes them out of a stopped vehicle. This situation is just one of the real-life scenarios in a simulator used for training at the University of Tennessee (UT) Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC).
Helping law-enforcement officers make better decisions when deciding when to use force has become increasingly important in light of the public debate on the appropriate use of force, which is the main reason LEIC, an agency of the UT Institute for Public Service, invested in the Use of Force Decision Making Firearms Simulator. A Washington Post report found that 1,153 people in the U.S. lost their lives in 2016 due to interactions with law enforcement – 963 of those by gunfire. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 64 officers were killed in firearm-related incidents in 2016 — a 56 percent increase over 2015.
“Officers receive shooting instruction on the ranges, but this simulator is unique in that it places the officers in the potentially hostile scenario,” said LEIC Executive Director Don Green. “This 300-degree simulator provides participants an immersive training experience to react to scenarios using verbal commands, Taser, and firearms. Officers experience a diverse range of scenarios during the class designed to challenge their knowledge and decision making abilities.” LEIC is the only agency in Tennessee with a 300-degree simulator.
The eight-hour course offered at the LEIC facility in Oak Ridge helps students increase situational awareness, increase their communication skills and practice decision-making under stress. After a simulation, participants can review video, which records when they fired their weapon, what was visible on the suspects at the time, and what the officers said leading up to the shooting. A trained instructor debriefs each scenario. LEIC does not allow personal firearms in its facility. For this training, the officers use actual firearms that are fitted with a non-permanent drop in laser recoil kit, as well as having a Taser or less lethal option.
“With the implementation of virtual firearms simulators in law enforcement officer training we are able to encounter realistic situations as opposed to static range scenarios,” said Maureen Velez with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
About LEIC: The Law Enforcement Innovation Center is one of five agencies of the UT Institute for Public Service. Formed in 1997, LEIC is a leading training and technical assistance provider for the law enforcement community across the nation. Over the past 15 years, more than 30,000 law enforcement officers, other criminal justice practitioners, public safety workers, public school personnel, and community members have completed training with the center.
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