Perryville police officers got the chance to participate in a special training program last week that placed them in a variety of tactical simulations in an effort to help them learn to react quickly, respond appropriately and stay safe on the job.
The computer-based Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives simulator — or MILO — allows departments and law enforcement training academies to accomplish several training tasks in the same location at once, including classroom-based lessons, instructional presentations, interactive-individual and group testing and scoring, along with physical hands-on firearms and use of force training exercises and scenarios.
During a session last week, Perryville Police Cpl. J.P. Shincliffe called the training system a valuable tool, especially when it comes to effectively communicating during an incident.
“That’s the idea,” Shincliffe said. “Not every scenario is going to be ‘shoot everybody up.’ It’s mostly designed to just get the officer thinking outside the box, to articulate their words into a situation that they might not have encountered before in order to de-escalate the situation and show an appropriate response when somebody else is escalating the situation.”
During Thursday evening’s session, the scenarios presented included a possible break-in at a warehouse and another involving a person in emotional crisis.
During the former, Shincliffe was forced to react when the suspect pulled a firearm on them. In the second, they were able to de-escalate the situation without resorting to violence. In both cases, the officers were forced to make decisions and react quickly and appropriately to a rapidly changing scenario.
The department got the chance to make use of the interactive system thanks to a local insurance firm.
“Lakenan Insurance, in conjunction with our partners at Midwest Public Risk, are excited to provide a unique training opportunity for both the Perryville Police and Perry County Sheriff’s departments,” said Jake Yount, a risk advisor with Lakenan in Perryville. “The advanced training system, known as MILO, has been utilized for nearly two decades to provide tactical training to both law enforcement and military agencies.”
The simulator, which utilizes large projector screens and light-emitting weapons — along with adaptations for less-lethal responses — allows officers to hone their skills and decision-making when dealing with realistic situations that can be challenging and stressful.
Last Thursday, officers were exposed to situations ranging from armed aggressors to people in emotional crisis. Each scenario is controlled by an instructor, who can then comment on and rate the officers’ performance.
“Our local law enforcement agencies are committed to providing safe and responsible policing in our community and this training helps to reinforce that commitment,” Yount said.
Sgt. Nathan James, who was charged with conducting Thursday’s session, said that despite appearances, the MILO system is more than a video game.
“Being trained on it and observed by someone that expects professionalism and for you to act accordingly really challenges your psyche and your mental capacity,” James said. “Everybody makes mistakes and they’ve all gotten dinged on decisions they’ve made, but they’ve all been applauded at the same time. It’s extremely beneficial.”
Simulator training is also frequently used at law enforcement academies, so it’s nothing new, especially to younger officers, but Perryville Police Chief Direk Hunt said it’s important for all officers to keep sharp and be able to adapt to rapidly changing situations.
“It’s purpose is teaching people how they should react when they pull their weapon or what weapons to engage with,” Hunt said, “and whether you should use other means. It’s not always that a weapon needs to be utilized or pulled. It gives you a scenario where you have to make a decision and teaches you how to make those decisions accurately.
“Normally, you don’t get to do that kind of training without that device, so when they offered it to us, we took that offer so we could get some training.”
Hunt said he hopes his officers will get another chance to make use of the simulator.
“People are asking for it all the time,” Hunt said. “Hopefully we can get it again in another year or so and go through that process again.”