$60,000 simulator trains Pocatello police officers for high risk situations

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POCATELLO – Patrol Officer Joel Greenway and his partner stand at the top of the stairs as a man below enters the stairwell with gun in hand.

“Drop it! Drop it! Do it now!,” Greenway yells to the man.

The man slowly raises his arm. The officers fire and the man falls to his death.

At least that’s what appears on the screen. This is just one scenario in the Use of Force simulator at the Pocatello Police Department.

Officers often encounter high risk situations that require them to make split-second decisions. The simulator, a large projected screen that responds to the action of officers in real time, is one method used to train officers for these kind of situations.

“It trains us to keep our heads on a swivel, always keep our eyes open and to look for that threat that could potentially be just around the corner,” Greenway tells EastIdahoNews.com.

The department purchased the simulator last August. It’s used periodically throughout the year in conjunction with other training methods, including the shooting range and other role-playing scenarios. Lt. Bill Collins says even though the simulator came with an initial $60,000 price tag, it is a safer and more cost effective training method in the long run.

“When we go to the range and shoot rounds, it costs us money every time we pull the trigger. This is relatively cheap compared to that,” Collins says. “(The simulator) enhances everything we do. We can put stress on officers in a little different way than we can at the range. With this system, there’s no limit to what we can do in a room.”

Many of the scenarios depicted in the simulator accurately portray what officers encounter every day, Collins says. The most common calls Greenway responds to are disturbances, which range from loud arguments or fights on the street to domestic disputes. Greenway says using the simulator has directly benefited him in responding to these situations.

“I’ve approached vehicles before where they’ve attempted to flee and had no nowhere to go. I’ve had to catch up with the vehicle and maintain them at gunpoint because they’ve become violent or argumentative, exited the vehicle and not obeyed commands.”

If you witness a crime taking place, Collins says the most important thing you can do to help police is to report it and stay out of the way.

The most dangerous scenarios officers encounter, Greenway says, are traffic stops because of the risk for armed conflict. If you ever get pulled over, Greenway says it’s helpful to remain calm and keep your hands where officers can see them.

“If we don’t see your hands, we don’t know what you’re doing,” Greenway says. “Some people think the best thing is to start getting out (your proof of insurance and registration). I recommend people keep their hands on the steering wheel, wait until we approach the vehicle and we’ll give you the instructions we need.”

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