Simulation Preparation for Missouri Sheriff's Academy

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JEFFERSON CITY - The sheriff and deputies are going far beyond the classroom when it comes to preparing for the real world. Simulation is a method the academy uses to help trainees make the right decisions in split seconds.

But basic training students begin the program in the classroom before they are allowed to use their skills in simulated situations. They spend time at the the Missouri Sheriff's Association Training Academy (MSATA) learning about constitutional law, statutory law and defensive tactic firearms practice before setting foot in front of the simulator.

Training director Ron Carroll sees the simulation scenarios as a way to test students to see what they've learned from the initial classroom material.

Carroll asks these two important questions of the upcoming trainees: "Have you learned what is appropriate and what warrants the action you take?"

"It's going to train us as far as quick response," trainee Scott Craig said. "Do we fire? Who are we firing upon? Is it going to be a regular citizen or is it someone who needs to be shot at?"

Sheriff Chris Heitman was involved in a shooting incident that he wishes simulation training could have better prepared him.

"The technology that's offered at this academy with the firearms simulator would have probably changed the outcome of that shooting situation," Heitman said. "It allows officers to see it in a different perspective and actually participate in it as it would actually happen in real life."

Heitman explains how the simulator training can help trainees practice handling stressful situations when responding to a scene.

"It's always stressful going on a domestic disturbance involving weapons especially alone, which in a rural county is something we do on a daily basis," Heitman said. "They prepare you to handle situations alone, where a lot of other academies don't necessarily teach that side of law enforcement."

Deputy Joe Turnbaugh has a few things he remembers when dealing with people and conditions that may put his life in danger.

"You do have to take charge and control of the situation, but I always try to communicate with them and I always try to let them dictate what the outcome is going to be," Turnbaugh said.

Turnbaugh said there are some situations that he has come across as a deputy that cannot fully be simulated.

"Personal experience. The adrenaline flow when you are by yourself. I personally have had seven people on the ground in a trailer where everybody was running out as I pulled up by myself. I did not have cell phone service," Turnbaugh said.

Technology has been implemented inside the classroom as well.

"The students can bring in their laptops now," Carroll said. "We issue them a thumb drive that has a majority of their study material on it. They can put that thumb drive in their computer, there's no more of these big bulky books that they have to haul around."

Nathan Patterson is one of thirteen other trainees currently training at the academy. The group will finish their training session March of next year.

"This is our third test we're studying for," Patterson said. "I did well on the first two and this one is a little harder, but I've been studying a little bit each day as we get the material so I don't have to cram for it all at once."