SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The death of George Floyd has focused attention on police training and the use of force.
For police officers, many decisions they make happen in a matter of seconds.
Trainees at Springfield's Police Academy have been able to hone their skills in hundreds of different scenarios...through the “Milo” simulator, and today media members were invited to try it out.
The scenarios in the simulator are based on real calls made to law enforcement around the country.
Western Mass News had the chance to test out several scenarios, in which the line between shooting or not shooting...was razor-thin.
While it’s just a screen, the feelings of tension and pressure are very real.
Western Mass News' test with the Springfield Police Department’s "Milo" simulator started with just holding the system’s training gun, firing a few rounds, and shooting targets on a screen...
The media and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno gave it a try.
Under low stress, not a difficult task, but the tension quickly rose when Springfield officers demonstrated the next step in our training.
Those targets turned into people on a screen, acting out scenarios that have been reported in real life to law enforcement around the country
In that case, the traffic stop escalated quickly, and officers had to return fire when the suspect started shooting, but the line between shoot or don’t shoot is precarious and can change in a second.
In another scenario, a call for a disturbed individual with a gun ended with him going back to the house. Western Mass News crew didn’t fire the weapon, and the instructor debriefed our crew on what we should do next.
But when the situation does turn violent like in different scenarios...
Springfield Police told Western Mass News a suspect charging from a distance of 21 feet is closest before it’s too late to stop them.
Not to mention officers have to measure that distance while trying to decide if it’s safe to fire their weapon in their surroundings.
"If they miss, look in the background is that a possible school back there? We try to run a domestic, we try to run a car stop, we try to run an active shooter because we think that those are some of the things that most of the officers respond to and also a disturbed person," said Springfield Firearms Instructor Michael Dumas.
Dumas told Western Mass News the department’s simulator has undergone upgrades every three years since 2011. This most updated version has been in use in this facility for the last year.
"Probably close to 400 different scenarios," Dumas said.
He told us that officers who go through this training have the option to simulate using a taser or mace and de-escalation tactics.
The instructor can change the outcome of the scene playing on screen, if they feel the trainee has effectively diffused the tension, like in a particular scenario of a suicidal woman.
"The officer should be trying to talk to her, see what we can do for her, trying to get her help," Dumas noted.
Dumas said the feedback from trainees and officers has been positive.
"Gives you a chance to use some of the skills that you learned inside the classroom, and come out here and doing," Dumas explained.
From August 2017 to now, Springfield Police have said there have been six officer-involved shootings in the city.
Twice they were fired upon first, three times the suspect tried to drive at the officers, and once, they were threatened and charged at by the suspect, and in those instances, zero suspects were killed.
In the training facility, the trainees know they’ll walk out alive but even just the stress of the room hones muscle memory and the critical ability to evaluate every unique situation.
Because once they earn their badge, there are no debriefs, no simulations, and no guarantees they’ll come home alive.
"How to perform effectively when the stress is on, that’s why this training is so important," said Springfield officer.
Of those six officer-involved shootings, Springfield Police said the Hampden County D.A. reviewed each instance and determined the use of force was justified.