Earlier this week, Minnesota officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted in

the shooting of Philando Castile.

The police dashcam footage, released to the public this week, shows

Castile telling the officer he did have a firearm on him. . .

This has lead to the public questioning whether Yanez was a panicked

cop, or a well-trained officer. It’s not the first time questions

about police training in various departments has come up.

It’s a concern that has come up over and over again as stories

involving deaths at the hands of a police officer break in this

country. How well are police in certain departments being trained in

use of force?

It’s certainly a question that can only be answered from police

department to police department. There’s no one answer that can fit

all.

During the June 20 City Commission meeting, the Junction City Police

Department received permission from city officials to purchase a force

training simulator called the MILO Range System. The department is

using drug forfeiture money to pay for the system, which costs

$32,480. So, it doesn’t cost the city.

Recently, I had an encounter on Twitter with a Junction City

Commission candidate who stated the forfeiture money “could be used

else where besides on a toy.”

To begin with, it’s too easy nowadays for candidates (in this case,

one with 13 Twitter followers) to make waves through statements from

behind a computer, attempting to turn non-issues into issues. It can

easily lead to animosity.

Battles shouldn’t be fought through social media, even if someone such

as Donald Trump does it all the time, as they should during a public

debate.

In this case, improving use of force training is hardly a poor use of

funds, especially when considering how often police training is

questioned in the media and among the general public.

As an outsider looking in, the technology involved in the MILO system,

and the way it allows officers to train, does have a fun aspect to it.

It’s virtual, after all, and still very novel.

But that doesn’t diminish in any way, its usefulness and importance in

officer training.

The same candidate praised on Twitter the department’s use of funds

for LED lighting. Well, yes — lights are important.

If he hasn’t already, I would suggest he take time out from Tweeting,

and watch officers use the MILO system. Talk to them. Find out if it

really is a toy, or if it’s something they consider beneficial.

In the meantime, I still have yet to find out what a better use of

forfeiture funds would be, aside from light bulbs, for the police

department?

I hope this candidate brings up some convincing ideas come debate time.

This training system is interactive, and it’s used for tactical

judgement and firearms training.

It has 700 different scenarios, such as a hostage situation inside a

school building, an irate individual inside a city government meeting,

an attempted car jacking while the officer is off duty, and a domestic

situation where one individual has a concealed weapon.

Even with 700 scenarios, an instructor sitting at a computer can

manipulate scenarios based on how the officer is responding to what’s

on the screen.

The machine also gives automatic feedback regarding the officer’s use

of interactive weapons, whether it’s a gun, taser, or pepper spray, he

or she chooses to use during a training session.

Police Chief Dan Breci told City Administrators during the June 20

City Commission meeting that the type of training officers receive

with the training system is something they only receive at the

Academy.

He also referred to it as “something almost vital to what we do.”

When Risk Management Advisor for Midwest Public Risk, Jason McMahon,

brought the system into the Police Department for a demonstration in

May, I got to watch officers use it.

I spoke with some of them to see what they thought, and their opinions

were similar. They couldn’t build the memories the system allowed them

when doing firearms training at the gun range, which would be crucial

in potentially lethal situations. This virtual training forced them to

scan situations, listen, watch, expect unexpected events to unfold,

and think about situations before and after they happen. It put them

in virtual life-threatening situations. The “virtual” part seemed

useful in minimizing potentially fatal mistakes. The last thing this

community wants is the rest of the nation questioning the training of

its officers. MILO will provide vital training and help avoid

potential future issues in police use of force. It’s money well spent.

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