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New training tool helps deputies make split-second decisions

Agencies across Florida use MILO RANGE simulator

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – To shoot or not to shoot?

That is a split-second decision many law enforcement officers have to make every day.

So how do police agencies prepare their officers for those kinds of confrontations? One word - training.

News 6 Investigators found one Florida sheriff's office that is trying to get results by taking their training one step further - by incorporating a high tech video system that uses various made-up scenarios. The system is called the MILO RANGE simulator, and the Osceola County Sheriff's Office just started using it last October as part of their training.

What happens is all based on what the officer's actions and reactions are to the situation in front of them.

"You know, in training, this is where if you're going to make mistakes, this is where you make those mistakes," Sheriff Gibson, who is glad his deputies are undergoing this specialized training, said. "Sometimes, the adrenaline takes over - and you don't realize that you're doing something until you actually see yourself on the video."

According to the company's website, the MILO RANGE use of force and tactical skills training system helps with tactical judgment training. Company officials say they create customizable simulations that deliver safe and realistic training options that allow departments to train their teams. Officials say that simulation training can help students achieve 90 percent learning retention - and they cover everything from critical incident training, situational awareness and community policing training, police firearm and Taser and baton training, to judgment skills training and even de-escalation training.

"This is why we train - because we just don't know the circumstances that we're getting ourselves into," Sheriff Gibson said. "We're all about safety in our community. We want to make sure that our citizens are as safe as they possibly can be, and that's why we train all the time."

Gibson has been with the Osceola Sheriff's officeOffice for the past 28 years, but just became Sheriff in January. He says he was with the Youngstown Ohio Police Department for a couple of years before that. But even a veteran like Gibson says he learned some things by going through the simulator scenarios.

"I learned I'm no different than anyone else," Gibson said. "I found myself looking for cover."

News 6 Investigator Adrianna Iwasinski also got to see how it works first hand.

The first scenario she encountered? A possible break-in.

The scenario showed an armed woman who fired her gun as soon as Adrianna turned to corner. These are the kind of scenarios Osceola officers train for and must be ready for every day.

"Because the unknown is what we deal with in law enforcement," Sheriff Gibson pointed out.

The next scene Adrianna went through involved a man who had just jumped a fence onto protected government property. In the scene, the suspect started to get angry, and before Adrianna knew it, he pulled out a knife and came at her - showing just how important it is for deputies to be ready to make a split-second decision. It's a decision that could mean the difference between life and death - not only for the officers, but for others out there.

The last video scenario put Adrianna into a school setting - with a call about a troubled adult inside. The simulation put Adrianna into an empty gymnasium, and all of the sudden, the custodian walked out - with a gun pointed at his head.

In Adrianna's case, her choice of words is what caused the trainer to pick the response she got,which was with the gun later being pointed at her. But trainers say the scene could have gone a very different way had she just tried to calmly talk to the suspect in order to defuse the situation.

One thing Sheriff Gibson said is key to their training is teaching their deputies how to communicate - and to control a situation with their words if at all possible - to try to keep a situation from escalating. Even with that, his department has already had three officer-involved shootings so far this year.

"What we do is protect the citizens of Osceola County and anyone who visits here on their vacations," Gibson said. "We want them to come back. We want them to feel safe."

The MILO RANGE video simulator cost the Osceola County Sheriff's Office $130,450, and they use it to train all their new hires. They also put their new recruits and veteran deputies through live simulations at least once a year.

"It is worth every penny that we spend to make sure the deputy skill sets are there," Gibson said. "That they are familiar with their firearms, and in their time of crisis, they are going to revert back to their training. And that's why we drill it into their heads and practice and teach it so when it happens, they know what to do."

Sworn-in deputies are now required to train on the MILO simulator twice a year. But they are also allowed to train on it more often to enhance their decision-making and shooting skills.