Silhouetted by a large screen with his hand hovering near the equipment on his belt, Officer Robert Clark stood at the ready on Friday to react to one of the many scenarios on the TI Training Simulator at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College.
“I’m always thinking, ‘What do I do if ...?’ ” he said after the demonstration.
The college held an open house Friday to showcase the newest addition to the school.
Four time slots beginning at 11 a.m. allowed local police, stakeholders and elected officials to watch the presentation.
Clark, an associate professor of criminal justice and social sciences; PHCC Director of Security and Safety Cregg Dibert; Assistant Director of Security and Safety Cory Fairman; and Johnstown Regional Police Academy Director Dennis Miller provided a explanation of the simulator and how it’ll benefit not only local police, but the community.
The TI simulator provides real-world scenarios ranging from low-level verbal disputes to active shooter situations.
During the first time slot, Clark worked through about five training videos, which reacted to his movements and were queued up by Fairman.
In the first, he drew his weapon – a CO2-powered training pistol – and fired at moving targets.
Clark’s actions were picked up by sensors on the projector above him – three sensors that can be activated for three screens.
Another scenario saw him deploy his baton and subdue an irate defendant in a courtroom while a different display showed an angry individual in handcuffs who fought his way out of the back of a police cruiser.
Clark had to use his taser for that situation.
“It’s split-second. What do you do?” Clark said.
Each scenario features quick decision-making and real-life situations that include the actors in them yelling obscenities and verbally assaulting the officer.
During one active shooter training, Clark had to try to talk a citizen with a gun out of intervening while also eliminating threats as they appeared on the screen.
After the first presentation, Clark said the hair on the back of his neck was raised and he was sweating.
“We will use this as much as we can to cut down on range time and increase safety,” Miller said.
In addition to the displayed scenarios, there are nearly 800 others that can be pulled up, including de-escalation training.
The officers who watched the presentation were impressed, including Cambria County Sheriff Don Robertson and Johnstown Police Department Chief Richard Pritchard.
“It’s a great thing the college is doing,” Robertson said.
He has experience with similar simulators and noted that they are valuable assets and “great training tools.”
“This is pretty neat,” Robertson said.
“I think, naturally, it offers a lot of ability for our guys to train with the tools we use,” he said.
The TI simulator was purchased by the college using a Perkins grant and is part of what Penn Highlands President Steve Nunez refers to as the trifecta of law enforcement offerings at the school.
In addition to the criminal justice major, which has been available for some time, the Johnstown Regional Police Academy is moving from the Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center to Penn Highlands this spring.
“This is just a terrific opportunity for us to train new officers or provide continued training for current officers,” Nunez said.
The college president added that he’s proud to have the opportunity to do so.
Miller noted that the simulator will be used “heavily in the academy to get” the cadets ready.
At the end of the presentation, Miller told the group that the scenarios will also be open to police departments to rent, and they are working on classes for the public to take as well, such as pistol awareness and home defense trainings.
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