Brewer News

Brewer police use simulator to train in use of force


Brewer police Deputy Chief Jason Moffitt goes through an active shooter situation with the department’s new use of force scenario trainer.

BREWER, Maine — Garret Hubbard, Maine Emergency Management’s Homeland Security Program manager and grant writer, recently helped to secure a $30,000 Homeland Security grant for the Brewer Police Department to acquire new interactive video training equipment. On Friday he got the opportunity to see just how it works.

“I usually just sit in an office,” he said, as a holster was fitted to his waist. He was strapped with a 9 mm Glock handgun, a Taser, flashlight and handcuffs — all converted to interact with the floor-to-ceiling video screen in front of him, which displayed scenarios using actor images.

The handgun was real but had been converted with a carbon dioxide cartridge to give the shooter the feeling of recoil from firing. The Taser had a laser light but did not actually shoot the electrodes needed to stun someone.

Hubbard’s first simulated call was to the library for a report of a man stealing a bicycle. He handled the situation confidently by using his voice to get the man on the screen to put down his pair of bolt cutters and move away from the bike.

The second call was back to the library, but this time the man reached for his gun and Hubbard pulled his Taser, which he discharged.

In the third scenario, he was dispatched to an armed robbery at a different location and found a man matching the robber’s description walking down the street. At the end, the man on the screen grabbed a knife from behind his back and attacked and overtook Hubbard before he could react.

“This is really a fantastic training tool,” Hubbard, a former U.S. Marine, said after the session ended.

Brewer’s new training tool is called an interactive Use of Force Scenario Trainer, made by Ti Training Corp. It is designed to elicit the kind of quick thinking and sometimes lethal decisions police officers are required to make under pressure.

“A lot of people seem to second-guess us. This shows you just how quickly we need to react,” Brewer Deputy Chief Jason Moffitt said. “This is real-life situations, just like they happen every day.”

“There are more than 600 different scenarios,” Brewer Detective Sgt. Tony Pinette said of the machine, as he sat behind the instructor’s computer.

“The instructor can actually change which way it goes [mid-scenario] based on how the participants react,” Brewer Police Chief Perry Antone said, as he watched the demonstrations. “More often than not, it’s a no-shoot scenario.”

The Use of Force Scenario Trainer can be customized to local specifications and comes equipped with firing range capabilities, Antone said.

“This is as much about [situational] training as it is about firearm training,” the police chief added later.

At the end of each scenario, Moffitt talked to Hubbard about what happened, what he thought he did right and what he thought he did wrong. Then they discussed other things a trained officer would know.

Interaction with the instructor after the fact is vital in police officer training, Moffitt said.

The equipment also allows playback so the participants can see themselves, see where a bullet or stun gun hit, and the time between shots.

When an officer is dispatched to a scene, “it crosses all our minds” about what could happen, Pinette said. The more training an officer has, the better, he said.

Homeland Security funds were used to pay for the equipment, which means “not a dime” came out of the pockets of taxpayers in Brewer, Antone said.

The department used asset forfeiture funds, acquired by successful prosecution of criminal cases in partnership with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, to buy conversion kits so the officers can use an actual 9 mm Glock and AR-15 variant rifle, the standard-issue weapons given to Brewer officers and other departments in the area, Antone said.

“These are the Glocks we actually use,” Moffitt said.

Brewer applied for the Homeland Security funds as a regional entity and the equipment is available for area law enforcement groups to use. Maine State Police, Bangor, Orono, Old Town and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office already have personnel trained to operate the equipment.

“This has been a good use of Homeland Security funds. It benefits everyone,” said Michelle Tanguay, Penobscot County Emergency Management Agency director.

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff
Posted March 07, 2016, at 2:13 p.m.
Last modified March 07, 2016, at 3:45 p.m.