In Brentwood, 'live' training simulation for deadly threats
BRENTWOOD — A man stands in front of a police cruiser with a knife pressed against his throat.
With his gun drawn, Brentwood police Sgt. H.D. Wood IV orders the man to put the knife down. He wants a peaceful ending.
After shouting commands, Wood keeps a close eye on the man as he drops the knife.
The incident appears to be over, but seconds later the man lifts his shirt and begins to whip out a gun.
Realizing there's a new threat, Wood has to make a split-second decision. He fires at the man.
The scenario was one of many that played out Monday when a live fire mobile firearms training range made a stop in Brentwood.
The mobile range is a fully self-contained, unmarked 48-foot trailer provided by Blue Line Corp. of Sudbury, Mass., that offers live fire judgmental scenario training where officers fire live rounds at a scenario projected onto a thick paper screen.
The scenarios feature real people in potentially dangerous situations. They included everything from the suicidal man to a student who pulled out a gun in a school hallway as police approached him.
Close to the real thing
In each case, the training officers watched the scenarios on the screen and had to decide how to react.
"This is the closest you can get to the real thing," Brentwood police Officer Brett Wells said.
The trailer travels to police departments around New England, but Monday's visit to Brentwood was the first time it was used in New Hampshire.
Two officers can run through 20 live fire scenarios in under an hour inside the trailer, which is lined for safe ballistics use and is fully insulated for sound reduction.
"Some of these scenarios are very judgmental as to whether the officers fire at what they saw at that immediate moment. It could be a threat where a gun is coming up and then the person puts the gun down. It's your call as to when you shoot, if you shoot, but this gives officers that vital part of judgmental stuff which is hard to get when you're outside at a range and you have a static target that doesn't move," said Jerry Tilbor, operations manager for Blue Line Corp.
Ten Brentwood officers took part in the daylong training, which cost $1,700 and was included in this year's police budget.
Wood said police have always had firearms training where officers shoot at still targets, but this was different.
Assessing a threat
He said the live interaction training he received Monday was unlike anything he's experienced in his 21 years in law enforcement.
"Things are happening, and they're live, but you have to issue voice commands and you have to make a split-second decision if you see a firearm or if there is no firearm. There's movement on the screen that you have to follow. It's a completely interactive situation, and you're firing live rounds in these situations. You're getting the recoil of your firearm. You're getting the muzzle flash, and you're getting the sound, which is the best thing you can get because that's exactly what happens," Wood said.
During the training, officers were given a brief description of the scenario they would encounter. The information was similar to what they would receive from a dispatcher who takes the initial call and relays that information to officers before they arrive at the scene.
Wells recalled a similar training provided at the police academy, but he said laser guns were used.
The training simulated many of the situations police face on the road with no light, low light, flashlights, cruiser lights and sirens.
"The great thing about this simulation is that what he's showing us is what we deal with on a daily basis. Everything that he's shown us today, we've dealt with on numerous occasions," Wells said.
The scenario involving the school shooter was fresh in the minds of Brentwood police who responded to an incident at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston in September after receiving a report of an armed man at the school. He was gone by the time police arrived and was later arrested, but officers didn't know what they might face when they arrived.
"We didn't encounter anyone, but this is what it would have been like if we did encounter someone," Wood said.