Tuesday, May 08, 2001

Simulator hones police driving skills




By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP — When Lt. Keith Bradley got into the PatrolSim simulator at the D. Russel Lee Career-Technology Center he received his assignment: look for and pursue a white van.

        The Greene County sheriff's officer adjusted his seat, turned on the Crown Victoria cruiser console, found the van on the 35-by-20-inch screen, turned on his lights and sirenand began the pursuit. Within 15 seconds he had crashed.

        “It caught me off guard. I didn't follow through on my mirrors,” the 26-year veteran said. “About halfway through I had to tell myself, "Wait a minute. You're supposed to be breathing.' Your adrenaline goes sky high and you have to learn to slow your body down. That's (simulator) the way it is out on the streets.”

        The simulator is one of two the vocational school bought for its Police Training Institute at a cost of $90,000 each, said director R. Barry Andrews, a former Cleves police officer. The simulators train officers in the proper techniques of pursuit driving. They also will be used to train other public safety employees, including firefighters and public works employees, in defensive driving, vehicle operations and collision avoidance.

        Mr. Andrews recently taught two dozen officers how to use the equipment so they could train their employees. Police departments represented included Warren, Greene and Butler county sheriffs, Springdale, Mason, Lebanon, Harrison and Forest Park.

        Hamilton County Park Rangers Sgt. Dale Reatherford said he experienced more tunnel vision than he had expected.

        “It's a good way to critique your self,” Sgt. Reatherford said.

        With a selection of 14 vehicles and 140 scenarios, the unit can simulate driving on urban, suburban, rural or interstate roadways in all kinds of weather, day or night. The instructor can program in events - such as people walking in front of a cruiser - so that no two missions are ever alike, Mr. Andrews said. After each simulation, the trainer can replay the exercise, using different camera angles so that trainers can talk about situations with trainees.

        The San Antonio Police Department found that after its officers completed training on the simulators, intersection crashes involving police cruisers decreased by 74 percent, said Michael Holdsworth, developer of the program and a former Louisiana police officer.

        “We teach how to recognize hazards and how to respond to hazards,” Mr. Holdsworth said. “You learn to apply skills in a risk-free environment before going to the streets.”

       



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