The Voice of Texas Law Enforcement held a free use of force gun simulator class on June 6 and 7 at the Van Alstyne Police Department. Field Representatives from the Texas Municipal Police Association operated the event for peace officers in order to assess and assist with police reactions to aggressive situations officers may be faced with.

“The Force Options Simulator allows officers to consider and choose the proper force option as a scenario unfolds in real time,” Van Alstyne Police Chief Tim Barnes said about the event.

The free simulator class places officers in a darkened room in front of a projector that screens more than 700 real-life scenarios officers may face. Officers use real weapons that they would carry on the streets, including tasers, rifles, pistols and handguns, with the only difference being that the guns shoot lasers. The officers are provided with brief information from a dispatch call before they are thrust into the scenarios.

“I can make the bad guy shoot at you, I can make him give up. I can make him do whatever depending on how the officers react to you,” said TMPA Field Representative Tony Rike, who operated the course.

Rike described the class as very realistic training.

The situations feature an array of hostile, angry, intoxicated, mentally ill, and lethally equipped citizens of various ages, races and genders. The officer must choose how to instantly assess and react to the threats, with the simulated gunshots being recorded by the programming system. After each scenario, the officer is then show where his or her shots would have landed to see how the situation would have resulted in real life.

“Law enforcement officers often are called upon to protect themselves or others from violence,” Barnes said. “This sometimes will require an officer to use force against a violent offender. Knowing the amount of force necessary to stop the offender’s action requires extensive training.”

The course provides officers with the chance to be evaluated by experienced members of the TMPA, who provide advice on the best way to react to a vast array of threats. The officer is able to replay the scenario, analyze his or her reaction, and understand what appropriate reactions are for different threats. This allows for officers to both train themselves not to resort to violence unless necessary and react fast enough to save their own lives when they are put in the line of danger.

Rike explained that officers do not shoot unless presented with a weapon, which is something the course trains officers to do. Rike said that due to a reactionary gap, it takes the body approximately 3/4 of a second to react and take action to what the eyes witness, which leaves officers with scarce time to asses a situation and react to it.

“(The officer) has two-tenths of a second to decide am I going to live or die,” said TMPA Field Representative Clint McNear, who also operated the course.

McNear explained that officers are always at the disadvantage, because they must react to any given situation. The one-tenth of a second officers have to decide what to do may cost them their lives.

The course also allowed officers to play back situations and practice casing people with their eyes to search for signs of weapons. In situations where weapons are not perceived to be present, officers are encouraged to be less dependent on tools.

Rike and McNear explained that officers tend to use guns when presented with weapons in order to save their own lives and protect others. The men explained that taser guns may not be effective if someone is wearing a baggy sweatshirt, and factors such as distance and wind also effect accuracy. Similar concerns can be assessed in the usage of mace, while gunshots to the leg or nonfatal body parts may not incapacitate the perpetrator and eliminate the danger.

Founded in 1950, the TMPA is a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Austin. The goal of the TMPA, according to their website, is to protect the interest of law enforcement officers who serve across Texas by providing affordable training, as well as legal assistance and state and local lobbying efforts.

The TMPA use of force gun simulator class moves all over the state, but it is not mandatory. Due to equipment expenses, not all officers are able to participate in the simulator before being placed on the field.