SKILL SHARPENING: Local law enforcement brings in special training

COLUMBIA CITY — Whitley County’s law enforcement officers are getting more than the average training this week. Whitley County’s Sheriff’s Department rented a F.A.T.S (firearms training simulator) and every officer in the county is scheduled to use it this week.WCSD Chief Deputy Marcus Gatton said the simulator brings real-life experience to training.“The F.A.T.S machine sharpens us up and keeps us from becoming complacent,” Gatton said. “With all of the different environmental settings it gave us, we could never duplicate that in a shooting range setting.”The F.A.T.S. machine sets up a variety of scenarios, including schools, businesses, traffic stops and domestic situations.Depending on the officers response and commands in each situation, the training officer has the ability to escalate, or de-escalate, the scenario as it is being played out.“We can replay the scene and break it down frame by frame, or shot by shot,” Gatton said. “It’s nice because we can talk to each officer about why they shot, or didn’t shoot.”The guns used in the simulator recoil and the officer has to change the magazine.“We’re getting the feel and function of a gun without the cost of live ammunition,” Gatton said. “It’s not ‘true life’ but it’s still a very valuable training.”Pepper spray, flash lights and tasers can also be used with the F.A.T.S. training system. Gatton said the training prepares officers for situations such as the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.“We can make a mistake and learn from it, without it effecting us adversely,” Gatton said.He said the approximate cost for the machine came out to $33 per officer — much cheaper than sending them out of town for training.“We don’t have hotel, gas and ammunition costs,” Gatton said. “Plus, all of the employees are doing the training during their paid shift, so we aren’t putting extra hours into it.”Gatton said approximately 72 officers will do the training, some of them more than once. Deputies and confinement officers from the WCSD, CCPD officers, Churubusco and South Whitley Police officers, as well as reserve officers will complete the training.“So far it’s been a hit with the guys,” Gatton said. “Some of them have been worn out by the end of the scenarios.”