Local law enforcement officers take part in training simulations

Published 9:50 am Wednesday, February 10, 2016

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

When it comes to preparing for possible crises in the field, a police officer’s training is never over.

Throughout this week, law enforcement officers with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office have been doing just that, participating in a series of immersive virtual exercises that simulate the types of dangerous situations deputies may encounter in the field. Using an interactive video program known as the MILO Range system, officers have been sharpening their response times and decision making skills in potentially life-threating situations, with scenarios ranging from responding to a call about a man behaving erratically on the streets to an active shooting situation inside a school building.

“The videos force the officers to respond to each situation in the appropriate way, while also making them decide which type of force to employ,” said Jeff Johnson, a training officer with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office.

The video simulations are one of several annual training programs that deputies with the department must undergo every year, Johnson said. Every officer participating in the exercise is typically put through six to seven different scenarios, which Johnson can modify on the fly, making suspects in the videos become less or more hostile toward the officer.

Following the end of each video exercise, Johnson asks the participant a series of questions about the decisions they made, helping to identify the areas the officer was strong in as well as opportunities for them to improve on.

“It’s an invaluable tool for law enforcement training,” said Tom Jacobs, road lieutenant with the sheriff’s office. “It’s great for helping officers with their decision making.”

The department has been training using the MILO system for more than 15 years, renting the equipment from other agencies before partnering with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office to purchase the equipment two years ago.

The equipment used in the exercises, such as handguns, tasers or pepper spray, are equipped with lasers, so that when the officer uses one of them the scenario being played out on the projector in front of reacts accordingly. The handgun used is actually a repurposed Glock service pistol like what deputies employ in the field, firing off CO2 cartridges to simulate recoil.

In addition to training deputies, Johnson will conduct exercises using the MILO system with corrections officers at the county jail as well as officers with Cassopolis Village Police and Dowagiac Police Department this week as well. The system will also be used to work with work with officers in Edwardsburg, Johnson said.

“We want everyone working out there, be they an officer in the field or in corrections, to be trained,” he said. “Training has been a focus for us for quite a long time.”