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updated: 8/31/2014 7:09 AM

Elgin police face real-life drama on new simulator

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  • Elgin Police Deputy Chief Bill Wolf, left, and Lt. Frank Trost use the department's new Ti Training simulator, purchased about three months ago.

       Elgin Police Deputy Chief Bill Wolf, left, and Lt. Frank Trost use the department's new Ti Training simulator, purchased about three months ago.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Police Deputy Chief Bill Wolf, right, and Lt. Frank Trost use the Ti Training simulator, which allows the training instructor to control how different scenarios play out.

       Elgin Police Deputy Chief Bill Wolf, right, and Lt. Frank Trost use the Ti Training simulator, which allows the training instructor to control how different scenarios play out.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Police Lt. Frank Trost says the Ti Training simulator is realistic and a vast improvement over the old simulator dating back to 1996.

       Elgin Police Lt. Frank Trost says the Ti Training simulator is realistic and a vast improvement over the old simulator dating back to 1996.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • All police officers in Elgin will be trained to use the Ti Training simulator at the end of the month. Pictured are Lt. Frank Trost and Sgt. Adam Schuessler, left.

       All police officers in Elgin will be trained to use the Ti Training simulator at the end of the month. Pictured are Lt. Frank Trost and Sgt. Adam Schuessler, left.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Police Sgt. Adam Schuessler works with Lt. Frank Trost on one of about 400 scenarios available through the Ti Training system.

       Elgin Police Sgt. Adam Schuessler works with Lt. Frank Trost on one of about 400 scenarios available through the Ti Training system.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • The Ti Training simulator cost about $65,000. The Elgin Police Department tested several models that cost up to $500,000 before purchasing it three months ago. Pictured Sgt. Adam Schuessler, left, and Lt. Frank Trost.

       The Ti Training simulator cost about $65,000. The Elgin Police Department tested several models that cost up to $500,000 before purchasing it three months ago. Pictured Sgt. Adam Schuessler, left, and Lt. Frank Trost.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

A police officer responds to a call of a robbery in progress. He encounters a man who refuses to show his hands when asked.

All of a sudden, the man points an object at the officer. The object is merely a stapler.

What would the officer do in that fraction of a second? Would he shoot, thinking the man is pointing a gun, or would he be able to restrain himself?

That's among almost 400 different training scenarios available through the firearms simulator purchased by the Elgin Police Department.

"These are decisions that need to be made in a split second," Elgin Police Deputy Chief Bill Wolf said. "And they are life and death decisions."

The goal of the tool -- an on-screen, life-size projection of real actors -- is for officers to gauge the appropriate use of force when responding to a variety of situations.

Officers use the same Smith & Wesson M&P handgun they are issued on duty, which allows the most realism, Sgt. Adam Schuessler said. Instead of shooting bullets, the gun runs off a carbon dioxide-based magazine that shoots laser and recreates recoil.

Also, officers can use their stun gun device, pepper-spray and flashlight, same as they would during a real-life scenario, he said.

The result is realistic, Lt. Frank Trost said.

"Once you get into it, it feels like it's a real situation," he said. "But you have to let yourself get into it."

The interactive simulator allows training instructors to control how the scenarios play out based on the officers' responses, Schuessler said.

For example, in one scenario, a police officer responds to a report of a homicide and stops a man matching the suspect's description.

The instructor can direct the scenario in one of three ways: The man shows his ID, draws a gun and shoots at the officer, or lunges at the officer with a knife.

"If the officer is cool and collected and is able to keep things calm, that shows the importance of good verbal commands," Wolf said. "If the officer's response is not appropriate, we can have the situation escalate."

At the end of the training, officers are debriefed by instructors, and they go over the appropriate policies and procedures together, Schuessler said.

Law enforcement agencies that have training simulators include Aurora, Palatine and Rockford, along with Kane and DeKalb counties, Wolf said.

Elgin police purchased the $65,000 system, made by Ti Training, about three months ago, after testing several models ranging in cost from about $30,000 to $500,000, Schuessler said.

About 22 instructors have been trained on the new system. At the end of the month, the entire department -- which consists of about 180 officers -- will be trained.

The simulator is a vast improvement over its predecessor, which dates back to 1996, he said.

"The difference (with the old simulator) is night and day," Trost said.

The use of appropriate force is among law enforcement's primary concerns, Wolf said.

The Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which is being reviewed by a grand jury, sparked internal conversations, he said.

"We talked about it in depth at our last management meeting," he said. "We don't know the facts yet (of the Brown shooting), but it forces us to talk in general about how things are handled."

Officer-involved shootings have been rare in Elgin, where two people have been killed by police officers in the past 25 years, Wolf said.

John Bierdz was shot and killed in 1999, and Francisco Garcia was shot and killed in 1989.

Both cases involved domestic violence and direct threats with a deadly weapon to officers or civilians, Wolf said.

Elgin police haven't determined how often officers will be using the simulator, Wolf said.

"Everybody that runs through it loves it," said. "It's one more phase of training that expands our Rolodex of experience."

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