Chris Snare dealt with a disturbed person, an active shooter and a traffic stop gone awry — all in one hour Wednesday.
The Spring Township police officer was not on patrol and the encounters weren’t in person but projected on a screen inside the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology.
The simulated scenarios were part of a demonstration of a new training tool for local law enforcement that allows them to hone marksmanship and judgment using modified gear familiar to officers.
“It allows us to have the most realistic training,” Spring Township Police Chief Michael Danneker said.
The equipment was acquired through a joint grant between the Centre County Public Safety Training Center, CPI and the South Central Regional Terrorism Task Force, center coordinator Robert Balsamo said.
The program, MILO Range firearms simulator, costs $45,000 new, he said. The one at CPI is an upgrade of a system from the county sheriff’s department that cost $25,000. It comes with a computer system fitted with 200 realistic, interactive scenarios and modified pistols, a shotgun, mace, stun gun and flashlight for use on screen.
Two or three officers can use the system at a time, but an additional weapons package worth $20,000 is in the works for next year, which would add tactical weapons and extra pistols and would enable more officers to use the equipment simultaneously, Balsamo said.
Updated scenarios are also sent regularly to add to the training, he said.
After each scenario, a debriefing is conducted that gives officers information about where they hit the target and allows an instructor to offer feedback on how they handled each situation.
The system offers other benefits, Danneker said. Personnel can train in any weather and, because it uses lasers from the modified gear, it cuts ammunition costs.
“It’s a blessing for us to have it at our back door,” he said.
Any department in the eight-county region that makes up the task force can use the program, Balsamo said.
Other local forces have already used it, Danneker said, and interdepartmental training will be possible with the additional package, allowing officers across departments to learn each other’s tendencies, network and build cohesion.