The first production model of the world’s newest and most sophisticated digital, high-definition use-of-force simulation system has been donated to the Force Science Research Center to deepen its investigations into officer-involved shootings and other lethal confrontations. The results may ultimately help protect your life on the street and your career and freedom in court.
Presentation of the system was made last week [1/20/05] at FSRC’s newly occupied headquarters at Minnesota State University-Mankato by the system’s designers, IES Interactive Training of Littleton, CO. IES’s previous top-grade police-oriented simulator, Range 3000XP4, is currently in use as a core training tool in about 300 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
IES Vice President Joe Mason agrees with Minnesota State spokesman Mike Cooper that “world-class research” is underway at FSRC into officer behavior and other human dynamics of deadly encounters.
“No one is more serious about bringing a scientific approach to law enforcement research,” says Mason. Through FSRC’s use of the system, he is confident that not only will line officers benefit from research findings that will help make their jobs safer, but also that ways will be discovered to help trainers and agencies make maximum use of the testing and training data the system can capture.
The new-generation system, which IES calls the MILO Range, has an unprecedented capacity for recording and analyzing a subject’s interaction with an infinite number of testing and training scenarios. In addition to prerecorded scenarios that come with the unit, users can create and edit their own tactical situations to fit their specific needs and environments. This makes the system particularly appealing for FSRC’s widely varied research.
With the MILO Range officers have much more flexibility and versatility of response than they do with old-fashioned shoot/don’t shoot simulators. They can react to life-size video images and designer graphics with a full array of options from their force toolbox, including mere presence and posturing, voice commands, empty-hand control, chemical sprays, Taser and impact weapons, less-lethal ballistics, firearms–even tactical disengagement. The technology permits the scenarios’ light level to be adjusted at any brightness, including total darkness in which officers are able to illuminate only portions of the action with a flashlight.
The MILO Range also features a return-fire capability in which .60-calibre sponge balls can be shot back at testees. “These travel at about 500 feet per second,” says Mason, “so even though they’re soft foam, they do get your attention.”
Depending on an officer’s actions, the computer-driven system can branch to a variety of scenario consequences and outcomes, just as would realistically occur in the field. Throughout, an officer’s reaction time, accuracy, tactical choices, force decision-making and effectiveness are meticulously recorded. A special playback feature allows for an officer’s verbal dialogue, physical movements and force applications to be heard and viewed in sync with a “thumbnail” inset replay of the scenario for detailed, time-coded, stop-start analysis.
Production units with the same capabilities as the system presented to FSRC will not be available to law enforcement agencies generally until next spring, according to Mason. “Right now, the system at FSRC is the only one ready for use.”
The MILO Range is “like a training simulator on steroids,” remarks Dr. Bill Lewinski, FSRC’s executive director.
“This equipment will allow us to research new areas that otherwise would be beyond our limits or at the very best result in questionable findings.” Among other things, he sees immediate application to studies of how perceptions are affected in low-light encounters…what “contextual cues” influence decision-making…how the scan patterns used to assess potentially violent situations differ between skilled and inept officers…how complex visual stimuli affect an officer’s judgment and reaction time, and much more.
“Approximately 38 per cent of armed encounters involve 2 suspects moving laterally and shooting at an officer,” Lewinski says. “Yet there is no training given on how to deal with this in this state or most others because we don’t have valid research on how to best track the action and defend yourself in these circumstances. How are your reaction times and decisions affected in this scenario? Now we’ll be able to explore those questions and find out.
“In so many ways, we’ll be able to move our research to a new level–and get inside officers’ heads.”
Currently, FSRC has 11 research projects underway. Twenty others, representing total grant requests of $1,000,000, are awaiting funding. Lewinski predicts that significant research findings involving the MILO Range system will be documented and reported within 3 to 6 months.
As part of its mission to offer insights to the general public about law enforcement issues and to inform civilians about its research findings, FSRC invited media representatives to an hour-long MILO Range demonstration, which was conducted by Todd Brown, IES director of law enforcement programs. Reporters, camera crews and still photographers were present from 3 network-affiliated TV stations, 3 newspapers, 2 radio stations and a statewide public radio outlet.
Besides Lewinski, other representatives of FSRC were also present, including Deputy Director Bill Hudson, Executive Assistant Patricia Thiem, and these National Advisory Board members: MSU-M Dean John Frye, MSU-M VP Scott Olson, Scott Buhrmaster and Chuck Remsberg.
One reporter, Caroline Lowe of the CBS affiliate WCCO-TV, was especially interested in the MILO Range and the Center’s research. She’s also a licensed Minnesota LEO who works each summer as a reserve officer at the state fair. She gamely volunteered to serve as a guinea pig to demo the system–and deftly proved her skill with a firearm.
Lewinski explained to the media that FSRC was launched last June in an effort to expand on his personal decades-long investigation into police use of force and close “the huge hole in our knowledge about police shootings” and other critical high-stress events. Every month, he declared, the Center gets calls from agencies ranging from municipal PDs to “UN forces in East Timor,” trying to better understand the complicated mental, emotional and physical influences at play in officer-involved shootings.
“The single most disruptive factor in law enforcement and in society is the use of lethal force,” he said. “Eighty per cent of our urban riots have been connected with police use of deadly force,” particularly with the misperception that such force was excessive. For the society that is impacted, as well as for officers who stand to lose their lives or careers if they don’t fully understand and master the dynamics of deadly encounters, the research that will be made possible by IES’s generous donation “is of vital interest,” he stressed.
As the human behavior in officer-involved shootings is better understood, Lewinski explained, “then we can move to training,” to practical applications for “making officers and society safer.” Already, he explained, some of FSRC’s ground-breaking findings regarding reaction time, shell casing ejection patterns, inadvertent round placement, unintentional discharges and trigger control “have changed how investigations should be conducted.”
Two LE agencies in the vicinity of Minnesota State University–Mankato PSD and North Mankato PD–have agreed to supply officers as needed to help FSRC fine-tune its research methodology for projects utilizing the MILO Range system. In exchange, these departments will be allowed to use the equipment for use-of-force training and testing for all their officers.
The system is fully transportable, so that Lewinski and other FSRC researchers can travel throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as overseas, to conduct research with pools of officers from a variety of departments that have volunteered their services for FSRC projects.
In addition to its research, testing and training applications in law enforcement, IES explains that MILO Range technology can be used for interactive teaching in business and education arenas as well. The price starts at about $45,000 and ranges upward depending on accessorizing and customization. Special law enforcement pricing is available.
Besides the MILO Range, IES also manufactures the A2Z Classroom Trainer, which employs electronic feedback from trainees via wireless handheld keypads; the FDU (Firearms Diagnostic Unit), which allows trainers to identify and correct shooting errors to improve pistol marksmanship; Range Alpha X, a scenario-based training system for smaller departments and limited budgets; and driving simulation systems.
Purchasers of the MILO Range and other products get full training and continuing support from IES personnel. For more information, contact the company at 1-800-344-1707 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.