Police training helps save lives

Published 7:54 am Wednesday, February 17, 2016

In our editorial yesterday, we mentioned the numerous reforms and changes that Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood has brought to county law enforcement in his 24 years of duty to the people of the county.

One thing we didn’t mention was how he helped change how police and corrections officers across departments throughout the entire county train and prepare for the many different dangerous situations they could face while protecting and serving the public.

Last week, the sheriff’s office conducted one of these advanced training exercises at its dispatch center in Cassopolis. Deputies, correction officers and officers with the Cassopolis Village Police and Dowagiac Police Department all participated in interactive video simulations through the county’s MILO Range system. With simulations ranging from responding to a calls breaking up domestic disputes to a hostage situation in a school building, officers use the system to build upon their reaction times, and, more importantly, help them make split second decisions that could potentially save their own life and the lives of others.

It’s one of two major annual training exercises the sheriff’s office uses to sharpen the skills of local officers, the other using paintballs to simulate actual combat situations. The department has been using the MILO system since the early 2000s, purchasing the equipment outright with Berrien County several years ago, with the counties sharing it at different points in the year.

As police departments across the country come under closer scrutiny over the past year for what some label excessive violence against minority suspects, the lengths that Cass County goes to ensure its officers know how to respond to situations with potentially lethal consequences is commendable.

While impossible to truly simulate the real emotions that run through an officer’s head when he or she encounters a shooting or other dangerous event in real life, these simulations can help police build a sort of muscle memory they can fall back on, to make the best decision possible in the heat of the moment.

Although we hope our law enforcement officers never have to encounter these sorts of tragedies, we are grateful that the county chooses to invest in making sure they are prepared in case they have to make those life or death decisions — for police and the public’s sake.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.