Sponsored by Laser Shot
By Rachel Zoch for PoliceOne BrandFocus
Capt. Michael Curry discovered simulation training almost by accident. As a training officer with a suburban department in the Houston area, he found that the agency had purchased the Laser Shot training platform but wasn’t making full use of it.
Curry started exploring what Laser Shot had to offer, first by using the platform to boost marksmanship. He worked with the department’s firearms instructors to create a laser-based course to help officers struggling with their shooting qualification by providing training in a dry-fire environment at the station.
This effort yielded positive results right away, from greater control and customization of the training program to cost savings from reduced range fees and officer overtime.
“No. 1, the cost-benefit analysis for using laser-based training versus live was the biggest issue,” said Curry. “I could get more bang for my buck using the laser-based program.”
Improving training without increasing costs
Because the department didn’t need to worry about scheduling, overtime, travel to the range or ammunition expenses, officers were able to get as much training as they needed to boost their skills.
“We had very good success with this technique because it allowed us to get numerous numbers of rips and rounds down range in a very short period, without having to do all the scheduling,” he added. “We were able to actually train officers on shift so they didn’t need to be paid overtime.”
In addition to improving officer performance and reducing expenses, using in-house simulation training also enabled the department to keep officers at the station so they could respond quickly when needed.
“We were able to actually practice in the building,” Curry said, “so if something did happen, we would just put the toys down, pick up our real guns and then respond accordingly.”
The small footprint and mobility of the Laser Shot system provided a great deal of flexibility for the department.
“It allows you to create a training environment just about anywhere,” Curry said. “You can pick it up, put it in a case with all of the tools, take it anywhere and set it up.”
Creating custom scenarios to train for local issues
Once he saw the positive impacts of simulation training, Curry began to expand the program, including working with Laser Shot to develop custom scenarios to train for specific local issues.
“We used every bit of the training apparatus. We used the judgmental scenarios. We used the games and the core skills drills to work on handling and marksmanship,” he said. “Just about everything they had to offer, I found a way to use it.”
Laser Shot collaborated with Curry and his team to create custom local scenarios, based on the agency’s specific needs and goals, with the department’s officers acting as role players. Being able to customize the scenarios is a key benefit, Curry says, and he appreciates that the company was willing to work with him to develop the custom scenarios when he didn’t see what he wanted in their existing catalog.
“We had a good working relationship, and they were able to make those scenarios come to life for us,” Curry said. “They were always open to suggestions and feedback.”
Bringing simulation training to a new agency
Based on those experiences, Curry says it only made sense to bring Laser Shot’s training technology to his current agency, which serves a rural college campus about 45 miles north of Houston. He joined in the agency in late 2017 and hopes to have the system in place by June 2019.
To get ready for the simulator’s rollout, Curry is developing a three-stage process for all the department’s officers that includes moving drills and advanced weapon handling drills in both the dry-fire laser environment and live-fire drills.
“The goal is to use the Laser Shot training to get all our officers to an 80 or 90 percent threshold for marksmanship qualification and to maintain that into perpetuity,” he said. “It’s to get everybody comfortable doing what they need to do so that they are as accurate as they possibly can be when handling their firearms.”
He also envisions using the judgmental branching video scenarios for decision-making training and evaluation.
“I’ve put a sergeant into the environment, had them respond to whatever shows up on the screen in front of them, and then begin to walk through the incident command portion of the event,” said Curry. “So after all of the shooting is done – if shooting was even necessary – now let’s begin to discuss and evaluate the thought process on what needs to happen next.”
A key benefit of the judgmental branching scenarios, he says, is the opportunity to understand what the officer is thinking about and help him or her navigate possible responses. The instructor is then able to evaluate the trainee’s thought process as well as his or her performance in the exercise.
Curry also appreciates the realism provided by the Laser Shot simulator because he says it helps officers experience life-or-death situations in a controlled training environment.
“As a police trainer, I should be able to recreate the adrenaline, the feeling, the rush, the fear, in a scenario-based environment that causes you to think so you have the tools to operate in the real-world environment,” he said. “I call it putting these tools into the mental Rolodex of the officer. You should have made whatever mistakes you’re going to make in training and talk them through so you have the tools in your mental Rolodex to respond appropriately.”