AVON — Police officers were faced with a high school shooting, a reckless driver with a gun and a woman wielding a knife Wednesday.
Thankfully, the situations weren’t real. They were part of a simulation designed by Meggitt Training Systems to provide training to law enforcement.
Although police weren’t confronted by any real danger in the training room at the Avon Police Department, the simulations modeled very real situations — ones that any Avon police officer may face on the job.
Strapped with an unloaded handgun connected to the software system, Patrolman Csaba Hortobagyi took a spot in front of a large projection screen.
On it, he watched a situation unfold that eventually became deadly.
A mentally ill woman wielded a knife as Hortobagyi tried to talk her into surrendering the weapon.
But soon, an innocent bystander stepped in and tried to help.
“Get back!” Hortobagyi yelled to the screen, but his order went unanswered as the bystander walked closer to the woman. Hortobagyi had no choice but to fire his weapon as the woman with the knife lunged at the bystander.
“Once the female came in, well, that rapidly changed the situation,” said Capt. Larry Fischbach, who stood by watching. “Obviously, it could have led to someone being severely injured or killed, so that was the appropriate action to take.”
Fischbach said work as a police officer can be mentally grueling.
Simulations are designed to prepare an officer for situations so that he or she will know what to do when faced with a real one.
He said officers often face criticism for the use of deadly force but such a split-second decision could save the life of a fellow officer or an innocent bystander.
Chief Richard Bosley said that while officers are trained to deescalate situations without force, it is sometimes necessary to use a weapon.
The simulations are a good addition to other training, such as target practice, because they require critical thinking, he said.
“The main thing that we’re looking for here is judgment skills,” he said.
The simulations, which change year-to-year, and are avialable to departments statewide, have been rented by the department for the past few years. With each simulation, officers use real-but-unloaded weapons, such as a handgun, rifle, pepper spray and a flashlight.
Officers are then faced with a two-dimensional interaction with actors on a video, which is controlled by another officer who can escalate or deescalate the situation.
After saving a hostage from a man with a gun, Hortobagyi said the simulation was good preparation for the job he faces on the streets, but a police officer also has to live with any decisions that he or she makes.
“I think what you get out of this is that there’s always that split-second decision on whether to pull your trigger or not,” he said.