New Britain police get high-tech lessons in driving, shooting


NEW BRITAIN — Police Sgt. Thomas Gray adjusts the patrol car’s seat, straps on the seat belt, shifts into drive and begins a lights-and-siren emergency run across town.

Rush-hour traffic makes it more of a maze than a race, and Gray gets bounced around a bit as he swerves past a bus, brakes fast for an oblivious pedestrian and corners through a tricky intersection.

But he never leaves the second floor of police headquarters.

Gray is training on the department’s new Driving Force, a high-tech simulator that New Britain police believe is the most modern system of its kind in Connecticut.

Chief Christopher Chute’s plan is to retrain officers every year in driving, one of the most commonplace — yet dangerous — parts of their work. They’ll get to test their pursuit driving skills, but just as importantly they’ll get to experiment with how weather, sun glare, traffic, sudden mechanical failures and more can affect even moderate-speed emergency driving.

“What do we do every day? We drive,” said Gray, one of the chief trainers on Driving Force. “We do regular training in firearms, in domestic violence, in use of force — but once you’re out of the academy, there’s nothing more about driving.”

Chute and his predecessor, retired Chief James Wardwell, worked with a team of officers and supervisors to bring Driving Force and a related system, the MILO Range shooting simulator, into the department.

At nearly $160,000, it is a hefty investment for New Britain, but Mayor Erin Stewart is convinced it’s more than worthwhile.

“Seeing this makes me confident we made the right decision,” Stewart said Tuesday during a tour of the newly installed simulators. “This will be training our officers for many years to come. It’s part of why we have the best police department in the state.”

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By: Don Stacom, Hartford Courant April 10, 2019