Radford University students use lifelike simulation to experience law enforcement situations

RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) Criminal justice students at Radford University are getting a first-hand look at hostile situations they might run into, through a high tech simulator.

The equipment is not very common in universities and colleges yet, but police departments all around the country, including Roanoke City, use the MILO range simulation system.

But it's not used for tactical training, just to get exposure to high pressure situations.

Eric Snow is a faculty member in the Radford University Criminal Justice Department and runs MILO at the school.

He explained, "We're able to put them into a scenario and have them make those split second decisions on what level of force may be justified, and also they have found that verbal verbal deescalation, in a lot of cases will work."

The system even changes based on what the future officers say. But there are still simulations where students need to be ready to fire.

Carrie Tomlinson is a Radford Senior from Roanoke studying Criminal Justice. She went through a simulation where a suspect pulled a gun quickly and she had to fire, then more men came out of a van shooting.

She recalled, "I was a little nervous I think, I got kind of freaked out a little bit because they were not in the shot at all, we didn't see them, and then boom! Out of nowhere they just came and started shooting at us."

Along with things like that, comes scenes that may trick the students, like a school shooting demo, in which an armed man creeps around the corner, only to be seen later as a police officer leading a team.

Jamal Jackson is a fellow Senior Criminal Justice student, originally from the Richmond area. He watched that simulation from the crowd.

He said of it, "Of course, you thought it might have been the active shooter. That helps with positive threat identification. Of course he wasn't a threat, so you put your gun down and that way you're not sweeping all the other officers with your firearm."

The Criminal Justice students said the simulator makes them better understand the mindset of an officer in difficult situations.

"Taking those critical shots and actually thinking about what they have to go through when they see someone, it could be a gun, you never know, and that really helps out, not just students, but also the public so they can also see what happens," Jackson said.

Tomlinson added, "Especially with what's going on right now with the use of force, I think it could help officers practice, like when to use force, when not to."

MILO is new at Radford this semester, but there's already plans for the future of the tool.

Snow explained, "Maybe in the future we want to look at decision making based on race, gender, age of the person, any number of different categories."

Radford is also doing studies with the system, as other colleges and universities are thinking of paying the $25,000 price tag for the simulator.

Snow also said Radford will even be able to create their own simulations to base the surroundings in familiar places around campus.

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