To appeal to the learning styles of all students, successful law enforcement trainers will incorporate many different instructional methods in a range of settings -- in the classroom, on the firing range, on the driving track or in the gym. Many successful aides and instructional techniques have been developed out of necessity over the years, but today law enforcement instructors have a wide range of options thanks to technological advancements.

For more than 20 years, law enforcement and military training have used firearms simulators. But more law enforcement agencies, such as the San Marcos Police Department in Texas, are deploying a new simulator that is barely recognizable as such: the Range 3000 XP4 digital training simulator.

Training Transformation

Many U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies engage active-shooter or rapid-response training. Impelled by the Columbine High School tragedy in Littleton, Colo., on April 20, 1999, contemporary tactics used by first responders to active-shooter situations were re-evaluated, which led to a variety of active-shooter/rapid-response training programs across the United States over the past four years, said Sergeant Terry Nichols, project director for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center.

The most successful and comprehensive programs include a similar curriculum: contact team responsibilities, a history of active shooting events, room-clearing techniques, active shooter versus hostage or barricade situations, small team movement, and rescue team tactics and responsibilities, Nichols said, who is also a 14-year veteran of the San Marcos Police Department.

Some programs include first-responder/active-shooter training simply in a classroom, but more comprehensive courses combine the classroom setting with scenario-based exercises.

Police Video Games?

In recent years, firearms simulator acceptance has been increasing in the law enforcement community. Technology once thought of as police video games is now considered state-of-the-art training.

In the past, only large agencies and federal agencies had training budgets to afford the firearms simulator technology, which made it difficult for officers from small and medium-sized agencies to train with it, said Nichols. But with decreases in price over the last five years and technology grants through the government, acquisition by the smaller agencies is much easier, he added.

"Additionally the technology used in simulators available today is much more sophisticated and advanced than in the first-generation simulators," Nichols said. "Weapons do not have to be tethered to air tanks, real flashlights can be used instead of laser-based lights, and the scenario branching is much faster and smoother. These advancements have led to greater acceptance of simulator technology by line officers and trainers across the United States."

Simulators today feature return fire situations, low lighting options, picture-in-picture, nontethered recoil weapons, heads-up displays and the traditional "shoot/don't shoot" scenarios, Nichols said.

Previous simulators offered judgment and decision-making exercises, which the newest technology also does, in addition to allowing trainers to test and teach tactics, create custom-built scenarios, provide force-on-force options, audio/video record students, and change from daylight to a night sky with the push of a button. The updated firearms simulators deliver high-quality, scenario-based, force-on-force exercises for active-shooter and rapid-response training, Nichols said.

In force-on-force training, trainees enact scenarios in which instructors or other participants pretend to be "the bad guys," similar to a scrimmage between two football teams.

Simulation Training

The ALERRT Center -- created in 2002 by members of the San Marcos Police Department; the Hays County Sheriff's Office in Texas; Southwest Texas State University; and the Texas Tactical Police Officer's Association -- offers high-quality, low-cost, tactical training to both Texas and U.S. police officers. The courses are designed for small and rural agencies that could not afford tactical or first-response training.

Included in ALERRT Rapid Response training is IES Interactive Training's Range 3000 XP4 computerized firearms simulator. During development of

Jessica Jones  |  Managing Editor