Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Officer training adds simulator

Video system adapts for situations

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Newport Police officers have been taking lessons from FATS. Instead of teaching the art of making a bank shot on a pool table, this FATS may help save an officer's life.

        FATS — Firearms Training System — is a video simulator and computer trainer that allows officers to experience a variety of situations that can be programmed for violent or non-violent response with both firearms and non-lethal weapons.

[photo] Newport police officer Joseph Schulkens practices in the Firearms Training System.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        “This is the latest model of the FATS simulator,” Newport Officer Greg Simmons explained Tuesday. “We can train officers with a number of weapons, not just firearms. It's a more complete system than earlier models that only trained for the use of guns.”

        The FATS simulator being used by Newport is on loan from the Kentucky League of Cities, which is making the units available around the state at no cost to the police. The unit next goes to Erlanger.

        Officer Joe Schulkens went through six simulated situations Tuesday, from a traffic stop and others at homes or offices.

        The computer can be instructed to change each situation for a response requiring a firearm or some other weapon. The officer must make a split-second decision on how to respond as he looks at the video suspect.

        Chuck Melville, police chief at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, said his department already has purchased one of the new FATS units at a cost of about $60,000. It will be online in the new airport police shooting range by the end of summer.

        “We had one of the earlier FATS units for several years and made it available to all Northern Kentucky departments,” he said. “We used drug forfeiture money to upgrade to the latest unit.”

        Chief Melville pointed out that in addition to the many non-lethal scenarios available with the new FATS simulator, it also is equipped with an air-powered gun, similar to a paintball gun, that can fire plastic foam balls at an officer during a training session.

        “This is the first time a training officer has been able to set up a simulation where he can physically return fire with the officer who is facing the (video) screen,” the chief said.

        FATS, Inc., based in Suwanee, Ga., near Atlanta, is the world leader in small arms simulation and has more than 90 percent of the worldwide market for police, military and private training, company spokeswoman Jennifer Ward said. The company began in 1984 with the first system delivered to the U.S. Postal Service.

        A FATS simulator has been used by the New York City police department for more than four years. NYPD officers were training on the FATS simulator before the 1999 shooting death of Amadou Daillo, an unarmed African citizen who was shot 41 times by four New York officers, who misinterpreted the situation as more threatening than it was.

        The Cincinnati Police Division and the Covington Police Department both have had their own early-model FATS simulators for several years. The Covington model requires the firing of live rounds and must be set up in the shooting range.

        Later models, like the one being used by Newport, have laser technology and sound effects to simulate the firing of a weapon. They also can be programmed for SWAT training.

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