Cruiser chasers: WPD offers simulator training

Wapakoneta police officer Pat Green called in and learned the motorcyclist in front of his cruiser was a suspect in a felony crime. He started his pursuit.

In a short time, the chase reached high speeds — some eclipsing triple digits. Green managed to stay with the motorcyclist for a period of time before he started weaving through traffic. Green decided to stop his pursuit to ensure the safety of other motorists and himself.

In two more blocks, the motorcyclist crashed.

In two more blocks, Green received praise from Police Chief Russ Hunlock for doing the right thing.

Area motorists and Wapakoneta residents were likely unaware of the high-speed chase — because it all happened inside the Wapakoneta Electric Department building.

Wapakoneta police officers received extra training this week practicing on a driving simulator.

The simulator, which was rented from Enmark in Bloomington, Ind., puts officers in real life situations with real road hazards to help heighten their awareness with involved with their work.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize that the majority of our time is spent behind the wheel of a police cruiser,” Hunlock said. “It was extra training I felt we needed to go through.”

The simulator is set up much like the regular cruisers. Another officer sitting at a separate computer screen can program in different scenarios, such as high speed chases, injury accidents, and regular traffic stops.

Different scenarios can be programmed in such as rain, snow, fog, or other general obstacles officers can face at any given time.

“One of the things I like is that we can replay the incidents,” Hunlock said.

Each incident can be replayed and analyzed for everything done on the simulation. Officers can learn valuable information as they watch what they did correctly and make changes to things they could have done better in certain situations.

“It basically covers everything that we are subjected to while out on the road,” police officer Cal Schneider said.

All full-time police officers at the department will go through at least a couple hours of training while it is in Wapakoneta this week. The simulator costs $2,700 to rent for the week.

“It helps heighten awareness for anything that could happen,” Hunlock said. “You learn to be more aware of red lights or people walking out.”

Some police officers were initially turned off by the simulators appearance and voiced comments that it was just a big video game, but they soon realized the simulator is realistic and gives them the feel as if they were driving an actual vehicle.

“The general consensus is that they feel it is very good training.” Hunlock said. “Generally they feel they benefitted. You get some that think it is a big video game but after getting into the scenarios they feel they are getting good training.”

Green, who joined the local police force four years ago, took on several different scenarios Wednesday.

“My feeling is that it puts us in several situations that we are not involved in every day,” Green said. “This gives us a chance to respond to those scenarios.”