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|Real-life training void of risks|
As high school students fled down the hallway screaming, Ouachita Parish Sheriff Royce Toney raised his firearm, searching for his target.
Toney found him at the end of the hallway carrying a large shotgun. He reeled off several rounds, dropping the gunman.
It's a scenario every police officer fears — a gunman in a school. It's a situation, though, every law enforcement officer could possibly face one day.
That's why training is important, and one of the best ways to train for that scenario is through a computer simulation, which Toney demonstrated to The Ouachita Citizen last week.
More than 100 Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office deputies experienced real-life scenarios over the past two weeks in a mobile firearms training simulator provided by the state Attorney General's office.
The firearms training simulator featured actors in situations police officers could face on a daily basis.
The program offered a variety of scenarios, some of which included events that take place at a residence where a person has become unruly; inside a school where a gunman has started shooting; and inside a mall where a man can be found wearing a homemade bomb.
The program offered a variety of outcomes for each scenario. The program showed each simulated shot the officers take, and they could replay every scenario to improve their marksmanship.
The simulator was housed locally in a mobile trailer at the sheriff's office's rifle range in western Ouachita Parish. Law enforcement agencies throughout the state can borrow it for two weeks at a time. The Attorney General's office purchased the equipment and trailer several years ago for $122,000.
Toney said after Buddy Caldwell took office as Attorney General, he began lending the simulator to any law enforcement agency in Louisiana that wanted to use it for training purposes.
"It's a great training benefit," Toney said. "Look outside, it's pouring down rain right now, but we're inside doing training. The whole deal is it's cheaper because the officers are shooting with a laser, and it's safer and we can do it in any weather and at nighttime."
"Our deputies love it," Toney continued. "It's really an expensive video game, but it helps save lives and it's cheap practice because you don't waste any bullets. It's just a great training device.
"It gets your adrenaline up and your heart rate up because you don't know what they're going to do."
OPSO training officer Lt. Robert Brown worked the computer program for each training episode, allowing him to manipulate the actions of the actors. If a person approached an officer with a weapon, Brown could have that person drop the weapon and surrender, or attack.
"Basically, what you have is a series of recordings, and at one point they'll have the program challenge the officer by having the person attack," Brown said. "Or, we can have the program make the person comply with the instructions the officer gives. It really helps the officers think and improve their judgment."
The program offered more than 100 scenarios with different outcomes available for each.
"This mentally prepares you for what could happen," Toney said.
At the sheriff's rifle range, law enforcement officers practice using turning targets and moving targets, Brown said.
"We can't simulate the real world with turning and traveling targets," he said. "This is much better at training officers, especially the young ones who haven't experienced a lot of these scenarios that come up."
Brown said officers can't become complacent in their line of work because that could mean life or death, so training like what the simulator offered helps keep officers on their toes.