Like the real thing: Rochester police take a spin with FAAC and IES Simulators

By Jake O’Donnell — Monday, December 6, 2010

ROCHESTER — Police training in the Lilac City could soon get a 21st-century advantage.

Representatives from Michigan-based FAAC Inc. and IES Interactive Training were on hand at Rochester Police Headquarters Wednesday demonstrating their products, which included a video game-like simulator for driving and another, projector-based simulator for firearms training.

Rochester Police Officer Joshua Ouellette drives a police car simulator at the Rochester Police Department Wednesday.

Police Capt. Scott Dumas said the department is deep in the process of acquiring grant funding to buy simulators like the ones from FAAC and IES. Dumas said police have wanted to get the simulation tools for some time, and it appears their request could go out to bid relatively soon.

“This system is about decision-making for our officers,” Dumas said.

Members of the department were able to try out the simulators Wednesday. The driving simulator was not unlike an arcade driving game in appearance, featuring five high-quality screens transmitting digital images of hundreds of driving scenarios.

The public safety business manager for FAAC, said the simulators are meant to improve “perishable skills,” including driving and firearm use. He didn’t envision the programs to be used as a sole means of training, but rather one method for regularly keeping officers sharp.

“The intent behind this is to teach them to think about their driving,” the manager said. “It’s about what’s going on between the two ears and using judgment skills. It’s about anticipating what’s happening on the road in front of them.”

Chuck Deakins, an expert in police driving, explains how simulators keep the driving skills of police officers sharp at the Rochester Police Department Wednesday.

The FAAC public safety business manager also said the driving simulator contained around 500 scenarios, including different times of day, weather conditions and outdoor settings. All together, the manager said the products would cost from $200,000 to $250,000.

Chuck Deakins, a former police officer in Santa Ana, Calif., and now an expert for FAAC, was walking participants through the simulators.

“The value is to put them through this before they’re actually faced with it,” Deakins said. “It reduces collisions, saves lives, and improves the community.”

Officer Josh Ouellette used the driving simulator, where he assisted on traffic stops, made a traffic stop, and pursued a vehicle that had fled a traffic stop and later got in an accident.

All throughout, Ouellette had to be aware of passing motorists and use the large screens to assess intersections and avoid collisions while in pursuit.

“Most police fatalities happen in motor vehicle-related incidents, not with weapons,” the manager said.

For the firearms simulator, participants were able to use a pistol and Taser, which both used laser technology on a projected screen. Officer Brandon Kimbrough went through a scenario in the driving simulator in which a motorist blew through a red light, and the officer had to stop the motorist in a nearby parking lot.

Chuck Roch- ester Police Officer Joshua Ouellette drives a police car simulator at the Rochester Police Department Wednesday.

Kimbrough then went to the firearms simulator where a video of the uncooperative motorist was projected on a screen. In the scenario, Deakins informed Kimbrough the motorist had a warrant for a domestic violence offense in which a weapon was used. The motorist got out of his car and later reached into the passenger-side window for a gun, which he then pointed and attempted to fire in Kimbrough’s direction.

Kimbrough used the simulator pistol to fire one round into the motorist, ending the simulation. Through the entire simulation Kimbrough was speaking through his radio and to the motorist as if it were actually happening.

Deakins went through a debriefing with Kimbrough in which he praised the officer’s conduct during the simulation. A replay of the simulation was able to show Kimbrough had shot the motorist in the left torso area.

“The officer has a fraction of second to decide how many rounds he’s going to fire,” Deakins said. “It takes real discipline on the part of the officer to know he just needed one round and that’s all he fired.”

Dumas expected police departments, including Farmington and Portsmouth, to test out the simulators and also anticipated that the Local Government Center, Primex and the Police Standards and Training Council would have a look.

“It’s huge,” Dumas said. “It’s about more than just driving and use of force. It helps us reinforce policies we have in place. The things you experience here, now you’re always looking them for out there.”

FAAC’S public safety business manager said simulation products have already had a major impact, citing that collisions involving New York City Fire Department EMS apparatus were cut in half after they introduced driving simulators.

“In a controlled environment, you can deal with a lot of issues,” he said. “You’re not out on the street, and you’re not going to cause an accident.”

For more information on FAAC Incorporated and public safety products, please contact FAAC at 1.734.761.5836 (info@faac.com), or visit FAAC’s website at faac.wpengine.com.

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