Fairfield’s training simulator readies officers for pressure scenarios

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Fairfield’s training simulator readies officers for pressure scenarios

Saying there is “no room for error” when police officers are in high pressure situations, the Fairfield Police Department is investing drug forfeiture money into a training simulator.

“Police officers are employed and trained to use exceptional judgment in high-risk, low-frequency encounters,” Fairfield Police Chief Mike Dickey said. “These decisions are often made in a split second and while under duress.”

While an officer may have high marksmanship skills, real-life scenario training can help officers from the neck up.

“The city is obligated to provide police officers with the training and practice that will best prepare them for a potentially deadly encounter,” Dickey said. “While the firing range provides skill at marksmanship and is a necessary component of a firearms training program, training simulators provide skill at decision-making in critical incidents.”

A nationwide Pew Research Center survey of police officers shows at least 25 percent of officers say they had no police training in the past 12 months on how to de-escalate a situation.

While that’s not the case with the city of Fairfield, Dickey said he wants to ensure none of his nearly 60 police officers feel unprepared when facing high-pressure situations because there “is simply no room for error.” 

Training simulators provide life-like video scenarios that require an officer to make quick decisions involving use of force.

In 2012, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine invested in a mobile simulator where departments could get additional training. In 2015, the Attorney General’s Office moved to impose new police training standards and increased training hours.

Ohio AG spokeswoman Jill Del Greco told the Journal-News simulator training “is definitely valuable training, and if the agency is able to have it in-house, that’s a positive.”

The one-time $87,000 price tag of Fairfield’s training simulator is coming from drug forfeiture funds, not taxpayer dollars, according to the city.

There are not many training simulators around Butler County. There’s one at Butler Tech, as well as with the West Chester Twp. Police Department. West Chester purchased its training simulator in 2011.

“Over the last several years, it’s been more apparent than any time ever in law enforcement that officers are put into rapidly tense and uncertain life and death situations on a regular basis where they’ve got to make split-section decisions,” said West Chester Police Capt. Jamie Hensley. “But more importantly you have to train them to make good decisions, make sound use-of-force decisions.”

That can only be accomplished by putting officers in realistic environment situations, like traffic stops, active shooter situations and executing a search warrant, he said.

Hensley said a return on the department’s investment is difficult to calculate, but “it’s greatly enhanced our training overall, it’s greatly enhanced our officers ability to make decisions.”

“It’s hard to put a price tag on lives saves, or situations were averted because of our quality training; it’s hard to put a price tag on that especially when you talk about people’s lives,” said Hensley. “But from a numbers perspective, it definitely gives you an opportunity to come here and train. We can bring an officer up (to train) in 15, 20 minutes while they’re working without using any overtime, without firing a round.”

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