HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Hannibal-LaGrange University criminal justice students learned firsthand the difference a matter of seconds can make in situations involving a person with a weapon.
More than 30 students participated in a firearms training simulator, called Multiple Interactive Learning/Training Objectives, or MILO, on Thursday. It is the same simulator law enforcement officers across the state train with, and it provides lifelike scenarios without the real-life consequences as users experience simulated traffic stops, active-shooter situations, ambushes, burglaries and more.
"This is excellent training, and it helps address a disconnect between law enforcement practices and what people see on TV," said Brady Sowers, who teaches police operations and tactics at HLGU. "You hear about officers using lethal force, and there's more to just pulling a gun. This shows the decision-making process behind whether (to use) lethal force or not."
Students held on to a fake gun equipped with a laser, and scenarios were projected onto the wall. Students verbally shouted commands such as "Hands down!" as if someone in the video could hear them, and the software playing the scenarios was able to detect when and where students fired shots at threatening persons depicted in the videos.
If students didn't notice a gun or weapon in time, the video showed victims collapsing. But if the students fired their gun at the threatening person and hit them, then the would-be victims lived.
"This was an awesome experience," sophomore Gavin McDaniel said. "I'm studying to be a police officer, and I learned a lot from this. Some of these scenarios we haven't learned in class, such as pulling over someone on a (motorized) bike, so taking part in this simulator was really helpful."
Although senior Kelvey Vander Hart is studying social work with an emphasis in criminal justice, she agreed with McDaniel that the training was helpful.
"It really brings to life what we're learning in class and the severity of split-second decisions," Vander Hart said.
The simulator was run by Jeff Arp, who works with the Missouri Intergovernmental Risk Management Association in Jefferson City, Mo. He said he trains about 400 officers with the program each year.
Criminal justice professor Bruce Capp said the simulator training was important.
"It's better to have this type of training before such a situation is encountered in the field," Capp said. "We want our criminal justice students to be appreciative of the current training available to law enforcement."