K9 Scenarios Make Their Training Simulator Debut

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A new take on use-of-force judgment training has been developed by the Phoenix Police Dept. in collaboration with simulator manufacturer Ti Training Corp., a strategic partner of the Force Science Institute.

What the 2 entities have created are believed to be the first interactive simulator scenarios specifically designed to test K-9 handlers in decision-making relative to their primary force option, the police dog.

A series of 11 different scenarios, appropriate for testing dog-handler applicants and in-service personnel, will be debuted at the National Police Canine Assn.’s annual training seminar, to be hosted by Phoenix police Oct. 4-8.

The project began last winter after representatives of the department’s dozen or so K-9 handlers expressed a need for testing and training scenarios to Ofcr. Richard Brethour, the agency’s simulator coordinator and the member of the Firearms Training Detail who’s in charge of video production.

Brethour and other trainers filmed 2 scenarios for screening handler applicants, capable of being used on the department’s 3 Ti Training Lab use-of-force simulators.

“In one,” Brethour recently told Force Science News, “the officer being tested faces a situation in which a dog is ‘on bite’ with a suspect who begins firing a gun at the officer. In order to shoot the assailant in the torso, the officer must shoot through the dog.”

Some applicants attempted a head shot, but the majority made what Phoenix trainers consider the right decision, sacrificing the dog to down the suspect. “A K-9 is a tool,” Brethour says. “We prefer not to send a dog on a suicide mission, but in some unfortunate cases a K-9 must be considered expendable. This scenario tests whether the handler applicant has thought about the job in a realistic way.”

For the second initial scenario, the test subject holds on to a bungee cord hooked to a fixed object on the floor, simulating a dog “on lead.” The scenario first takes the officer on a search of an enclosed area. A suspect is flushed out but won’t obey commands. As a capture team tries to grab him, he assaults an officer and takes off. If the test subject releases the bungee cord, as if releasing his dog, a K-9 appears on screen and chases and bites the suspect.

Immediately after the scenario ends, the test officer is instructed to write a bite report, justifying whatever decision he made regarding releasing the dog. “Because an officer has been assaulted, we consider a release to be more desirable,” Brethour explains. “But either way, it’s important to see how the officer articulates his decision.”

After hearing of the department’s efforts with these scenarios, Ti Training, based in Golden, CO, last spring offered to send a professional crew with state-of-the-art cameras and editing gear to film additional scenarios for Phoenix, with the understanding that these could also be made available to the company’s other law enforcement customers. The series that will be shown at the conference resulted.

“We wanted high-speed, complex scenarios that would explore mind-set and generate discussion,” says K-9 Sgt. Rich Maiocco. “At the conference, different agencies mayhave different deployment strategies, and these scenarios will open up fresh ideas on how dogs should be handled.”

Some of the scenarios, which run from 20 seconds to about a minute apiece, relate to deadly force decision-making. “Most,” says Brethour, “center on when to deploy the dog in a wide variety of situations, including threatened suicides and confrontations involving less-lethal weapons. Was the dog properly deployed and can you justify the decision?”

“Deployment judgment is very important to test and reinforce,” says Ti VP Todd Brown, a well-known innovator in the use of simulation training systems for law enforcement and a member of the technical advisory board for the Force Science Institute. “If a dog is released too soon, you have a potential liability issue. If the release is too late, you may miss an apprehension opportunity.

“With these scenarios, you can get into situations that officers normally don’t think about and force them to make decisions under realistic stress situations. They can also be used to teach regular patrol officers about some of the subtleties of K-9 operations, so that everyone gets a better understanding of the job.”

[For more information, Todd Brown can be contacted at Todd@titraining.com. Ofcr. Brethour can be reached at: richard.brethour@phoenix.gov. For information on the upcoming conference, contact Sgt. Maiocco at Richard.maiocco@phoenix.gov or at 602-509-1741.]

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