Salem News – Blue Line takes firearms training to police officers
By Zach Church, Staff writer, Salem News
BEVERLY – A camouflage-clad gunman walks backward out of a school classroom and into Officer Terrence Pennington’s line of vision.
As wounded students lie in the hallway, Pennington takes aim and fires four shots at the man.
Light immediately floods the room to reveal a wall-sized video screen, and Pennington steps forward to inspect his marksmanship.
Had this been a real-life situation, his target would be dead.
A virtual-reality simulator is giving police officers a chance to practice more than 400 different real-life scenarios so they are ready in a dangerous situation.
Last week, Lawrence’s 16-member Emergency Response Team got to test the simulator, concealed in a 48-foot mobile trailer.
“I loved it,” said police Lt. Jim Raso, who directs training for the team. “The benefit to that is using your own weapon in the training.”
“It’s exposing us to shoot, no-shoot scenarios,” police Lt. Scott McNamara said. “Testing our decision-making.”
The training trailer is owned by Blue Line Corp. of Beverly, a business run by Paul Polonsky, an Ipswich police officer. The trailer, which doubles as an inside shooting range, is used to hone firearms skills. The trailer is reinforced with ballistic steel so that the live ammunition the officers use can’t escape.
“We can shoot handguns; we can shoot machine guns; we can shoot shotguns in here,” Polonsky said.
Blue Line takes its training range to different police departments, which the company says is more cost-effective than sending officers on overtime to private firearms ranges.
Though it may look like a game, the training is not, police say.
Each scenario the officer faces calls for a different reaction.
On his second turn in the simulator, Pennington is confronted by a visibly angry, rifle-wielding husband. The man is standing at the top of a flight of stairs, refusing to come down.
Pennington shoots him in the groin to disarm him, but not kill him.
“Nice shot, Terry,” McNamara says.
“He’s going to come down the stairs now,” Polonsky says.