When you see New College Institute’s parking lot full of law enforcement vehicles, don’t panic.
In fact, it should bring a sense of community safety.
The New College Institute (NCI) is now home to the Virtual Training Center for Real World Scenarios, a partnership between the Piedmont Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy (PRCJTA) and NCI.
The new state-of-the-art training center will immerse local law enforcement officers in lifelike crisis de-escalation and active shooter situations within the safety of the New College Institute (NCI) building — all thanks to virtual reality.
The training center features a MILO Range Theater 180 Simulation Training System, “a shooting simulator with a lot of different scenarios,” said PRCJTRA Director Ben Rea. MILO stands for Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives.
“The unit has two large speakers in back, six cameras with three projectors to run the system through a software program that MILO has created with those scenarios,” Rea said. It also has a control station, three laser projection screens which are 10 feet wide by 6 ½ tall each, a Surround Sound system, an 8-lane laser hit detection and two trainee weapon sets, each with firearm lasers, OC lasers and flashlights, MILO’s website, faac.com, states.
It will be used to train law enforcement officers and recruits for a variety of situations including crisis management, de-escalation and active shooter.
Some of the more than 1,000 training scenarios that come with the program include:
*Mental Health, an encounter with a man who has come out of his car, with verbal defense
*Homeless: an encounter with a homeless person at his encampment
*De-escalation: a disorderly or intoxicated employee and fired employee escort
*Crisis Management, a waiting area disturbance by a disorderly or intoxicated person
*Cross-Cultural, featuring a traffic pull-over with a cynical and on-guard driver
*Youth/juvenile, featuring teenagers at a park
*Inherent Bias, featuring a motorcyclist pulled over
*School Safety, featuring a disorderly student
*In-Custody, featuring an inmate irate over bugs on his tray of food
*Tactical Skill-Builder, featuring exercise
*Autism, featuring an autistic man in a park
*PTSD, featuring a non-disabled veteran with PTSD in a park
The “scenario content includes multiple layers of distractions” so trainees “consider their surroundings and potential risks to bystanders,” the MILO release states.
The focus of the training is on de-escalation, the release states: “Almost every scenario with armed engagements includes a ‘compliance’ for successful de-escalation. In the MILO system, an ‘OK officer, I’ll go with you’ response is an example of a win.”
Users also can create any localized, custom scenario. Recently, Stephen Brockway and James Curtis of the PRCJTA filmed a scenario at NCI, guided by MILO Range instructor Josh Goodrich. Curtis fell on the floor “dead” several times – as well as cringed from pretend pepper spray — as he portrayed a trespasser refusing to cooperate with an officer.
“We have two GoPros,” Rea said, referring to small, durable, portable action cameras that can film a 180-degree video. “That video can be shot anywhere. We will be doing it all over the place: Schools, businesses” and other local areas.
Thus, when officers or trainees stand among the three large screens, they would be surrounded by the sights and sounds of any school, park or other place in the local area.
The PRCJTA will offer training to students of law enforcement. NCI’s agreement with PRJCTA is that the training also will be made available to regional law enforcement teams as professional development for active law enforcement officers such as those with the Henry County and Martinsville sheriff’s offices and the Martinsville Police Department, said NCI Executive Director Joe Sumner.
Martinsville Police Chief Rob Fincher visited the training center on Aug. 30, right after it had been set up.
“It will be a great benefit for the officers of the MPD and for the community,” Fincher said the next week.
“Police officers will benefit from training with the shoot-or-don’t-shoot scenarios. The public will benefit as they will be able to experience first-hand a glimpse into the decision-making process of officers in critical situations.”
Opportunities will arise for members of the general public to experience the MILO Range, through participation is programs such as classes or Chamber of Commerce leadership class events, Fincher said.
“When we have instructors/operators trained, public education will be one of the elements of the course,” Fincher said.
Two of the PRJCTA staff and a third as backup will be trained during the last week of September to operate the Milo Range, Rea said.
After that, regular training sessions for law enforcement officers will begin. Groups in the community, such as business and leadership training classes and students of college criminal justice classes, also will be invited to experience the MILO Range, Rea said. Additionally, “the public will be able to come in and take tours.”
The equipment was purchased with a $75,000 American Rescue Plan Act of 2021(ARPA) grant, Rea said.