Shoot or Tackle? Simulator Puts Police in Tough Situations

Strongsville officers get use-of-force training


The officer runs into the house and sees a man choking a woman. He's got to make a split-second decision: Yell at the man? Tackle him? Use his Taser? Or shoot?

Strongsville police put their skills to the test this week with a firearms training simulator, an interactive device that shows hundreds of different crime scenarios on a large screen to see how officers react.

They can fire at the screen with air powered handguns or shotguns, or use a Taser.

"It's really decision-making training," said Sgt. Pat Russo, Strongsville rangemaster and training officer. "It forces you to make a fast decision."

The city rented the simulator for a week, which allowed about 50 of the department's 68 officers a chance for virtual training.

"They're presented with a situation, and based on what they're hearing and seeing, they have to decide how they'd respond," Russo said.

The guns are hooked up to an air tank to give a realistic recoil. The screen detects gunshots and the suspects respond accordingly.

"They look at the level of resistance and the type of weapon they're facing," Russo said. "Where an officer is authorized to use deadly force, how long does it take him to use it?"

Russo said the department looked into buying a simulator for year-round training, but the $40,000 price tag was too high.

Instead, he said he plans to rent the unit once a year to sharpen officers' skills with a virtual test.

"It's pretty realistic," he said. "It's as close as we can get (to the real thing)."




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