Dozens of police chiefs from around the south suburban region converged on Homewood Tuesday to get a first look at the next generation of law enforcement training.
Two state-of-the-art simulators – one that portrays incidents in which force may be used and another recreating driving situations – were unveiled during an open house at the village’s Brian Carey Training Center.
The simulators were provided by the Cook County Department of Homeland Security as part of an agreement with Homewood and the South Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police.
During a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Homewood Police Chief Bill Alcott thanked Cook County and said 78 area law enforcement agencies will have access to the simulators. Each of the departments has been asked to provide officers who can be trained to use the simulators.
“As you all know, training is very important in law enforcement,” Alcott said. “Without the assistance of Cook County our agencies would not have this level of training.”
After the ceremony, the two simulators – located in the building’s basement -- went on display.
Sgt. Darren Easter, one of the Homewood Police Department’s simulator trainers, led demonstrations of the five-sided VirTra V-300, which provides a lifelike, fully immersive environment in which trainees are exposed to situations where force may be needed.
The simulator can provide 100 different scenarios, and each of those can be broken down into three levels of force, from the use of pepper spray to firing automatic rifles or pistols. Real weapons are used although the firearms have been modified to shoot laser beams instead of bullets.
Participants have little idea what to expect as situations unfold on the simulator’s screens. During the first demonstration, an apparently deranged man, accompanied by his large dog, threatened the responding officer – Easter – with a large knife. Easter responded by firing his Taser and the man on the screen fell to the ground.
After that, Easter called for volunteers. Two local Illinois state representatives who were attending the open house, Al Riley and Anthony DeLuca, were the first persons to enter the simulator. During their scenario, they responded to an active shooter situation in an office building. The two legislators, armed with automatic rifles, watched as victims came into view. Then, shooting began somewhere on the screen and the state representatives started firing their weapons.
Easter explained that all activity inside the simulator is filmed and that every action of trainees is recorded to evaluate performance, judgment and reaction time.
The simulator, which was first developed for military use, can accurately portray situations at night and during rain or other unfavorable weather conditions, Easter said. Local police departments can provide locations from their towns that can be downloaded into the simulator, he said.
“The sky is really the limit on what we can do here,” Easter said.
Homewood Deputy Chief Denise McGrath said south suburban police officials started talks with Cook County about acquiring the simulators in March. The Homewood Public Works Department completed the renovation of the basement, which had been an unused space in a building that once housed a sewage treatment facility. The simulators arrived at the training center a couple of months ago and Homewood police personnel have been familiarizing themselves with the devices ever since, she said.
The Brian Carey Training Center, which is used by the Homewood Fire Department, first opened in May 2011. It is dedicated to Brian Carey, a Homewood firefighter who died during the attempted rescue of an 87-year old man in March 2010.