SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY - It may not look like much on the outside, but inside a large black trailer at the San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Department's headquarters is a Firearms Training Simulator that is proving to be a very valuable tool.
"Its more of a judgment tool and a decision-making tool for deputies", says Deputy Robert Crout who operates the simulator, "we take it out to other agencies to help them develop their officers as well."
"We want our simulation in here to be as close to real life as possible", Crout says showing one of the weapons that fires real bullets filled with compressed air that are used during the simulator training, "the only things that is different on this weapon is the barrel, they've switched out the barrel with a threaded barrel that can hold a laser device that will have a readout on the computer."
Our first simulated encounter was a domestic call with a roomful of people who objected to having a law enforcement officer in their home.
In the simulated video, the suspects are shouting obscenities at the law enforcement officer to leave and one of the suspects reaches behind a wall and pulls out his wallet.
"Okay, that scenario was an obvious not a shooting scenario", Crout says while monitoring the simulation.
A second scenario with the same suspects is considerably different with the suspect pulling out a gun shooting as our reporter opens fire in return.
"We're teaching these officers, you never know, you can never automatically expect its a wallet or automatically expect its a firearm", Crout says, "you have to feel what the intent is at that time and what a reasonable person would feel in that situation, if you feel that a reasonable person would expect to be threatened with a firearm that you are authorized to use deadly force."
The next scenario involves a call about rowdy teenagers harassing customers in a parking lot outside a store.
At first, a female suspect threatens the officer with a knife but our reporter does not return fire.
But in the next scenario the suspect pulls out a gun and points it at the officer… this time the reporter returns fire.
"Each situation is going to change, its going to be reactionary", Crout says, "you are going to have to make the best possible judgment in the shortest amount of time for everybody's safety, its all split second."
Deputies and officers trained in the simulator are evaluated for how they respond, their response times and their shooting accuracy.
Results determine if further training is required.
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