The Catoosa County Sheriff’s Department recently installed a new state-of-the-art “Use of Force Simulator” to better prepare its law enforcement personnel for situations they might encounter out in the field or even in the jail.

The agency and Sheriff Gary Sisk recently installed the new simulator technology at the Sheriff’s Department after receiving private funding and now the computer-based training can better equip deputies for a number of situations.

“It’s a great tool for us. It’s something that is really needed for law enforcement today, and it can definitely be a great benefit for our employees,” Sisk said. “There are a couple of other agencies in our area that currently working on getting one of these, because of how beneficial it can be to law enforcement.”

According to Cpl. Jake Hollis, who handles a lot of the training, the simulator offers a wide variety of scenarios including ones in the jail detention center, scenarios for on- and off-duty deputies, and even for civilians who might encounter a home invasion or an incident out in public.

“We’ve got approximately 670 scenarios,” Hollis said. “We give the deputies a basic setup of the situation, what the scenario is, and then they go through it, and we debrief them afterwards on how they handled the situation and if force was used.”

During the demonstration session on Wednesday, July 20, Sgt. Rhonda Wilson went through a jail situation with a hostile inmate, one where she had to actually tase the individual who was being aggressive and threatening her, and a second run where the variables changed, and the same inmate submitted with no force being necessary.

Deputies Duane Neal and Josh Moore went through multiple scenarios including an active shooter at an elementary school, a suspect threatening suicide with a gun, and the questioning of a person in a subdivision matching the description of a murder suspect.

Moore even trained on a severe scenario where a shooter opened fire in a courtroom.

“There are a lot of variables,” Hollis said. “We can take one scenario and change the time of day, whether or not the suspect has a weapon, vehicles driving by, dogs barking in the back ground….things like that, so we have a lot of different things we can run them through. Some are more graphic than others, but as soon as they’re done, we can go back and replay the entire scenario and it shows each round that each officer fired. During debriefing, it can show when and where deputies fired.”

What adds to the realism of the scenarios is the actual weapons, flashlights, pepper sprays, and tasers being used.

The training weapons, which include rifles, shotguns, handguns and tasers, are decommissioned weapons that have been reconstructed with lasers and CO2 cartridges, and ultimately synced to the simulator.

“They are real guns and they will function, but they’re set up to function with this system with lasers,” Sisk said.

The plans are to have the simulator implemented as part of officer training in the fall, but for now personnel at the agency are already getting a jump on the benefits of having such a unique tool at their disposal.

“Our employees are excited about it,” Sisk said. “It’s almost like working out. It gets your mind going and gets your blood pumping a little bit. We’re happy to have it and fortunate to have it available for our officers.”

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009. He can be reached at The Catoosa County News office at 706-935-2621 and by email at acook@npco.com.