A firearms training simulator gives Clark County fairgoers the chance to see things from an officer’s perspective, something Sheriff Deborah Burchett hopes will allow people to better understand the difficult decisions deputies sometimes have to make.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has set up the Firearms Training Simulator in the Annex Building at the fair. It’s free to try for anyone over 18-years-old, Burchett said, and will be available through Friday.
“You only have like a split second most of the time and people don’t understand that,” Burchett said.
In the simulation, participants uses a modified gun and go through a number of scenarios, including those with innocent bystanders. In each one the person must decide whether or not to shoot. Sensors track where the user’s shots would have gone.
“It’s very realistic and very true to life … You have school scenarios, you have traffic stop scenarios, you have domestic scenarios you have people with knives,” Burchett said.
The technology is state of the art, she said, and would cost about $90,000 to purchase. Burchett rented the equipment for $3,000.
It was a nerve racking experience for Michelle Shaw, who tried two different scenarios.
“I was nervous,” Shaw said. “I’m still a little shaky after doing it because, you know it’s a simulation but it still could be true life.”
Shaw’s cousin is a Clark County deputy so she said she knows the challenges law enforcement officers face, but she would recommend the simulation to anyone who wants to find out.
“It’s a great experience to understand what police officers go through every single day,” she said. “To have to react in a minute, it’s very stressful.”
Burchett wants the simulator to start a conversation about the dangers officers face on the job.
“There’s a lot of criticism toward the officers as far as whenever they shoot an innocent person,” she said. “But they don’t see what we see. So with this, they’ll be able to see what we see.”
She especially wants people with concealed carry weapon permits to try out the simulator.
“A lot of times you’ll read in the newspaper about the CCW holders stepping in,” she said, “and some of it’s good, some of it’s bad.”
Shane Thompson, a concealed carry permit holder, tried out the simulator at the Clark County Fair on Monday.
“Law enforcement has a lot on their hands,” Thompson said, “and in the situation you don’t have much time to think.”
He said going through the scenarios gave him a new appreciation for what officers go through.
“To be in that situation is a lot of pressure,” he said. “I couldn’t even imagine waking up everyday and having to do that.”
All participants have to sign a waiver and be patted down before entering the simulation, Burchett said. She wants her deputies to participate in the training, too.
“We have never received training like this before,” she said.
Deputies have been encouraged to use the simulator in the morning before it’s open to the public.
The Springfield News-Sun examines important public safety issues, including recent stories on closing overflow housing at the Clark County Jail and plans for re-opening a Springfield Police Division substation.