Simulating real-world scenarios helps Glenwood Springs police prepare for the field |

Simulating real-world scenarios helps Glenwood Springs police prepare for the field

Glenwood Springs Police Officer Sean Tatro engages a Taser during a training exercise Tuesday using the GSPD's new police training simulator.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Simulation training is giving Glenwood Springs police officers the ability to practice use and level of force to speed up reasonable decision making on the job.

The MILO Virtual Simulation Training gives officers different scenarios to work through while the trainer decides how the simulation ends. 

“This as-is right now, it’s about a $40,000 investment,” one of the main trainers, Lt. Bill Kimminau, said.

The trainee is given a gun and a taser, along with other options like a rifle or a flashlight. There are also options for batons and some other weapons, but Glenwood does not use them. 

“It gives you a real world aspect to training, kind of just puts you in a position where you have to make decisions on the fly, which law enforcement is,” Officer Sean Tatro said. “It just kind of gives you different perspectives on different situations in how people are going to react to you. It’s a positive thing. It definitely helps.”

Following training, officers discuss their actions and imagine what it would be like to explain someone’s death to their loved ones.

“You have to be able to articulate why you did what you did,” Kimminau said after showing a simulation where a woman stabs a man with a knife. “But in that situation, if you tried a TASER and she went after him with a knife, that wouldn’t be a good choice because they’re not always effective. Then, if she still gets to him and kills him, he’s got to answer to the family.” 

If the man was flailing and the officer shot him, then the trainer would question why the trainee chose that action and how they would explain something like that to the man’s family. 

“You’ve always got to answer to somebody about something,” Kimminau said.

Both the gun and the taser fit in their holster, so the training can incorporate all the tools they would have access to in real life.

“It gives you a real world simulation to what tools you use, whether it be your taser, baton, OC spray, or you know, worst comes to worst, you have to use your firearm,” Tatro said. 

There are other advanced options like adding a CO2 charge to the laser gun to simulate recoil, or a flashlight that lights the darkness on the screen to simulate an officer needing a flashlight to see in a dark building. 

The trainer decides the outcome of the simulation while the trainee is required to make split-second decisions as the simulated encounter unravels.

“As it plays, a lot of them have these different branching options, as they call them,” Kimminau said. “So I could have him attack with his fist, walk away and pull a gun, drop the beer and comply or drop the bottle and fist attack again. So while it’s going I can switch it.”

One example includes a man coming out of some brush with a beer bottle in his hand. Police Chief Joseph Deras acted out one scene, asking the man to put the bottle down. The man in the simulation begins to argue with Deras, making comments about how he wants to be left alone. In one outcome, the man complied and put his hands up. In another, he tries to fight Deras and in the most hostile version of the simulation, the man starts to walk away while cussing then quickly turns back around pulling a gun from his side and firing. 

“That’s the only problem with all these systems is you can yell at him all you want, and he’s gonna do whatever they filmed him to do,” Kimminau said. “There’s no way to get them to do things that you want.”

Kimminau said that talking is really the best tool that police have to calm people down. 

Deras is one of the trainers and pushed for Glenwood Springs Police Department to purchase it after working with it in his prior police force in California. 

“There’s a whole bunch of things happening there that we need to make sure the officers are aware of and thinking about,” Deras said.

The simulator has a multitude of training options, but Glenwood Springs police mostly use it for training officers to make reasonable decisions in a short period of time. Training is mandatory four times a year, and is left set up for the most part for officers to practice with when training officers are present. 

“I started what was called a FATS (Firearm Training System) machine (that was replaced by the MILO simulation),” Kimminau said. “You’d run through it a couple times a year. You knew what was coming. It was starting to get kind of ineffective, just like going through the motions.”

The police department is the only police force in the region using this realistic version, and is open to training other officers throughout the region, Kimminau said.

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