Tri-Town Transcript – When seconds count: Middleton Police use mobile simulator to improve reaction times

Tri-Town Transcript – When seconds count: Middleton Police use mobile simulator to improve reaction times

Posted by on Dec 14, 2006 in News

By David Rogers/ – Friday, December 1, 2006

Most police officers will never have to fire their pistol in the line of duty. But being prepared in the event they have to is vital. A mere second can mean the difference between life and death for police or those they are sworn to protect. And while Middleton police officers are required to pass yearly range qualifications, more can be done to better ready officers.

That was the reasoning behind an exercise at the station earlier this week. An 18-wheeler truck container pulled up at the Middleton Police Station. Inside was an indoor firing range created by Blue Line Corp. President Paul Polonsky, of Beverly.

On Monday and Tuesday, Middleton Police officers took turns testing their reaction skills courtesy of a firearms judgment simulator. The simulator consists of 20 scenarios in which officers have to assess the dangers of situation and react accordingly.”They have no idea what they are going to be,” Middleton Police Capt. James DiGianvittorio said.

DiGianvittorio led the training sessions giving advice to his officers as they completed each scenario. Afterwards, DiGianvittorio critiqued the overall performance of each officer. Use of the trailer was made possible by a combination of a community policing grant and funds straight from the Police Department’s budget.

The scenarios are two or three-minute movies with the camera acting as the police officer in the range. In many of the movies, a suspect brandishes a firearm, prompting the officers to shoot real bullets into the movie screen. In other scenarios, the officers show restraint as suspects either don’t reveal a weapon or decide to surrender peacefully. In addition to deciding whether to draw, officers are required to use verbal commands as if they were actually responding to a call.

What makes the simulator such a value to the department, according to DiGianvittorio, is that the officers must make decisions instinctively based on their training. The officers use their own .40-mm Glock semi-automatics and wear bulletproof vests. The captain also requires the officers to wear their uniforms.

“This is more realistic due to the fact that they are using their own equipment,” DiGianvittorio said.

This is the second year that Middleton officers have gone through the training.

James Kelley, a 33-year reserve officer said he enjoyed training in the simulator.

“The hardest part is you’re supposed to verbalize every scenario, talking to a movie that’s not talking back,” he said.

In addition to the shooting simulator, the range allows officers to attain their yearly qualifications. The trailer is designed to hold three 10-meter ranges complete with movable paper targets and swinging partitions.

The mobile range was last seen in the Tri-Town area in October when it was at the Topsfield Police Department. Officers were required to shoot at a paper target and then try to place another shot through the same hole.