Easter Weekend 2017

Simulator a valuable new resource for WM Police Academy training

Second class of cadets being put through their paces


“Police Academy 2” is new and improved.

No, not the movie — The West Memphis Police Academy has started it’s second class. This crop of cadets is receiving upgraded weapons training thanks to a newly acquired shooting simulator. The interactive programed computer has been with the department for just a month. Sergeant Richard Dennis supervises the weapons training. A computer presents target practice or shoot/don’t shoot scenarios. The prospective officers train with a Glock similar to the city issued service weapon. The computer tracks the trainee’s aim and the timing of shots. The whole scenario is then replayed, marked with shot intervals and targets struck for instant reinforcement.

The Sports Entertainment Specialists manufactured firearms training scenario simulator augments weapons training. Cadets had just two options in the last academy class, dry fire weapons practice along with shooting over 1000 live rounds throughout the training. With repetition being the mother of all learning, the simulator offers a less expensive alternative and boosts the number of repetitions.

The scenarios are interactive. The bad guys actually engage in dialog providing officers a chance to practice proper responses. According to Captain Robert Langston, the outcome improves aim and the real life scenarios help cadets gain practical experience to interact with the public.

“Ready, breath, relax, on fire for two rounds, ready, fire,” instructed Dennis as he took a cadet through target practice on the simulator, “Ready, breath, relax, on fire for two rounds, ready, fire.” The pistol drawn from the holster sounded in quick succession, pop, pop!

Dennis followed up with technique pointers as he talked and as he and his student shooter reviewed the target strike.

“Your second shot was much more accurate,” stated Dennis as they analyzed the reasons for the improved result for the second round, discussing recoil and focus. “Your finger on the trigger, don’t get it too deep. Put it right there. Ready, fire.”

According to Captain Robert Langston, the outcome improves aim and the real life scenarios help cadets gain practical interaction experience. “There are scenarios and the scenarios can be altered (by the computer operator observing),” said Langston. “If he is not doing the things he is supposed to be doing with proper orders, then it can turn into a shoot situation. But if he controls everything it can de-escalate into a no shoot situation.”

A cadet was thrust into an active shooter scenario in a maze of school hallways. The bad guy jumped from behind a corner and threw up a shot gun blast that shook the room. The trainee reacted with two shots, one to the arm and the second to the torso.

“Action beats reaction, reaction time is .22 seconds, we are trying to improve on that,” said Dennis after another simulated run where a virtual bad guy got the drop on the cadet.

The simulator saves expenses and ammunition and will provide practice opportunities for the entire department. Word spread to other law enforcement agencies now lining up simulator time in West Memphis for their officers as well.

“This will save the department money. He just went through about 50 simulated rounds,” said Langston. “We have a $30,000 ammo budget every year. With 80 officers that’s 500 rounds a piece per year. With this simulator they are shooting thousands of rounds a month now.”

After a month on the simulator the early results are impressive.

“After a thousand rounds you can see marked improvement on their scores,” said Langston.

The WMPD Academy drills with weapons every

Photo by John Rech week, not so at the state Academy. In West Memphis the whole officer certification is more detailed and takes longer to accomplish.

“We try to get these guys on the gun for four hours,” said Dennis.

“The state academies shoot for one week,” said Langston. “They’ll have you on the range and then you’ll qualify. They may go out once or twice more during the twelve week Academy. Defensive tactics same way they’ll do it for a week.”

How does that stand up to the training rigors at the new local Academy?

“Ours, they practice every week,” said Langston. “They do handgun, fire arm and defensive tactics every week. The state Academy is 12 weeks, our is 15. This is something we really wanted to do.”

Agood variety of simulated programs came with a pair of specially configured Glock pistols to form the core package the department bought. With the effectiveness and spreading popularity of the new training tool, the department will seek funding to add other types of firearms.

By John Rech