CHAMPAIGN — Police Chief Anthony Cobb says use-of-force training should be cheaper and more efficient once the department gets its new simulator to which the city council gave its nod last night.
The department will use $48,000 in federal grant money to buy the new firearms and use-of-force training simulator. It's like a life-sized video game, but a lot more realistic and with more serious consequences.
Cobb said the training itself will not necessarily be better than what the department already does with live ammunition at the firing range.
"Training is what you make of it," he said.
But the new simulator will give the department an opportunity to train throughout the year and around the clock, a convenience not offered by the firing ranges it currently uses. And it will take a lot less of the officers' time, too.
The simulator presents trainees with a situation on a video screen — maybe a suspicious subject on the street or responding to a burglary call at a warehouse. Officers must use their training to respond to the situation, and the supervisor running the simulation in the back of the room can change what happens on the video screen based on how the trainee reacts.
"The simulator helps us train more with decision-making and 'shoot, don't shoot' situations," Cobb said.
Try to change that scenario in a real-life training setup with role players and props, and there's a lot of down time setting up the scene, Cobb said. Officers also have to travel to the training site. But with the simulator, training can be done inside the police station.
He said a training session that might normally take 90 minutes of an officer's time can now be done in 15 minutes.
They'll have all the tools that they would have in real life, like a pistol, baton or pepper spray. The manufacturer also provides weapons like shotguns, rifles and gas launchers for those officers who need training with them.
The only difference is that the simulated weapons shoot a laser that tells a computer where it hit the screen. That will be different than the live ammunition officers use in training now, which can get expensive.
The manufacturer of the simulator, Ti Training Corp., provides videos of different scenarios. The department can also videotape its own scenarios in Champaign buildings and locations, making the simulator more realistic, according to city documents.
The department has been budgeting for the simulator for two years with money it receives annually from the federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant.