Video game just for cops: Rochester has driving and use-of-force simulators to train officers


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ROCHESTER — It may look like a video game, but the state-of-the-art simulator being used by local law enforcement helps keep officers safe and improves decision making, said Police Chief David Dubois.

Last year, the police department acquired a simulator, priced at a quarter of a million dollars, for training in driving and use of force.

The machine came to the city through a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant, and according to Police Deputy Chief Mike Allen, it’s one of the only simulators on the East Coast that integrates driving with use of force training.

EJ Hersom/Staff photographer Officer Matt Leccacorvi takes questions about the actions he performed on simulators at the Rochester Police Department recently.

So far, a handful of city officers trained with the new machine, and according to Dubois, “It has worked wonderfully.”

“It’s really set up for decision making,” said Allen.

Allen said that in working with the simulator, officers train to be unconsciously competent, meaning they “naturally react the way training taught you to react,” and make correct decisions in a quick manner.

The driving part of the simulator, produced by FAAC, Inc., features multiple large, high-quality screens surrounding the trainee that are able to transmit hundreds of real-life police driving scenarios.

“It’s all set up to simulate the Ford cruisers that we have,” said Police Officer Eric Ball, who is one of the trained instructors for the simulator. From his computer, Ball is able to control the scenarios the training officer faces and responds to in the simulation.

Next to the driving simulator is a projection-based use of force simulator, manufactured by IES Interactive Training. It can be used in conjunction with the driving portion of the simulator, using continuations of the same scenarios. The use of force portion incorporates all of the weapons available to Rochester police officers, including firearms and Tasers.
Officer Matt Leccacorvi, who joined the police department in December and graduated from the police academy recently, demonstrated how the simulator works.

Sitting in the driving simulator, Leccacorvi pulled over the blue Toyota Camry, and went over to the projection screen of the use of force simulator to continue the scenario. There, the driver of the simulated vehicle exited his car and got into an aggressive posture. After Leccacorvi commanded, “Sir, get back in your vehicle” multiple times, the simulated driver reached into his car and pulled out a gun, firing at the officer in the simulation. Leccacorvi fired his simulated weapon twice, and the screen showed where the shots would have been placed.

After the simulation is complete, Leccacorvi, like all the officers training with the machine, conducted a thorough debriefing session, during which the officer’s responses to various situations in the simulation are analyzed and compared to the department’s policies. After Monday’s simulation, Ball and Leccacorvi examined whether Leccacorvi asked for backup when the simulated driver exited his car, and whether he asked the simulated driver to drop his weapon.

EJ Hersom/Staff photographer Officer Matt Leccacorvi takes questions about the actions he performed on simulators at the Rochester Police Department recently.

Leccacorvi said the simulator feels “very realistic.”

On the driving side, “You feel like you are moving but you are really not,” he said. According to Dubois, it’s not uncommon for first-time users of the driving simulator to get nauseous while they are still getting used to how it feels.

Ball said that with the simulator, he, as an instructor, can make almost anything happen. The driving simulation can range from a practice driving course to getting involved in a pursuit. Ball can also control the weather conditions, whether it’s foggy, rainy, or snowy, as well as complete scenarios with flat tires on the simulated cruiser.

“This allows us to train officers on use of force and make them much better prepared to make decisions in the field,” said Dubois.

The simulator, which costs about $245,000, was brought to the city through the U.S. Department of Justice COPS technology grant, secured through the efforts of former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

According to Dubois, after the simulator arrived to Rochester, the Police Department has extended a welcome for other local agencies to use the simulator as well. He said Dover police

have already used Rochester’s simulator for training, and have a trained instructor for the machine.

While no formal training has taken place with the simulator yet, Dubois said all of the department’s new officers have gone through the various scenarios on the simulator. Eventually, all of the department’s officers will have trained on the machine, he said.

EJ Hersom/Staff photographer Officer Matt Leccacorvi takes questions about the actions he performed on simulators at the Rochester Police Department recently.


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