Ah, if only all networking events were this fun.
After sandwiches and cookies, it was all that and more for members of Women Leaders in Law Enforcement Southern California when they recently met at the Criminal Justice Training Center at Golden West College.
After some schmoozing and chit chat on the evening of April 7, they got a tour of GWC’s firearms training center and got to try out the Force Option Simulator, which is used in the SWAT academy and for police recruits.
“We put our officers in scenarios that are shoot-or-don’t-shoot situations,” said Brian Tidrick, a retired lieutenant from the Huntington Beach PD who runs the simulator — which is kind of like a big videogame.
“We’re trying to build their critical decision-making skills when they get out on the street,” Tidrick said. “We help them get used to times when they have to make a split-second decision. Hopefully, we give them the skills to make the right decision.”
Rick Hicks, former chief of police of Placentia and coordinator of the Criminal Justice Training Center, welcomed the WLLE members to the Criminal Justice Training Center, which is home to a basic course for police recruits, state specialized investigators such as those working for the DMV and also houses GWC’s criminal justice associate’s degree program, advanced officer trainings, leadership and ethics institute, semester length classes, as well as other AA programs.
The training center, which Hicks said will undergo a renovation set to be completed in about two years, also is used for advanced officer training and it is home to a Leadership and Ethics Institute.
Fullerton PD Sgt. Kathryn Hamel, vice chairperson of the SoCal chapter of WLLE, which was formed in October 2011 (the umbrella organization was formed in 1987), greeted WLLE members.
Then it was time to try out the Force Option Simulator.
A military company in Virginia adapted the simulator for law enforcement use, Tidrick explained.
Tidrick talked the WLLE members through each scenario while fellow retired HBPD Lt. Gary Meza worked the computer that put good guys and bad guys in various environments and situations.
“The simulator is good for honing basic skills in searching and clearing buildings and working as a team,” Hicks said. “It’s a communications tool more than anything else.”
Shooting in pairs, the WLLE members used air-soft handguns that fired lasers at targets — bad guys with knives or guns.
In one scenario, a man was in violation of a restraining order for visiting his girlfriend at an apartment complex.
The man walked out and said he didn’t want any trouble with the cops.
Tidrick “talked” to the man he called Bob, telling him to keep his hands where the officers could see them.
Participating in the scenario were Lt. Commander Cindy Pontes of the CHP and Michelle Riske, a dispatch supervisor for the Irvine PD.
“Bob” walked toward the officers and pulled out gun.
Pontes and Riske fired several shots.
Bleeding, Bob managed to run away.
Pontes and Riske checked to make sure they were OK and then radioed in the call. They put out a description of Bob, a white man in his 30s wearing a white shirt and blue jeans.
The WLLE members enjoyed the simulator.
“This networking event was fun and interactive,” Riske said. “It’s always nice to know others share your concerns and challenges.
“As a civilian who does not have access to situational simulators, it was a unique experience that I would love to do again.”
Said Pontes: “I had a great time meeting new people at this networking event. WLLE provides great opportunities to all levels of law enforcement.”
Officer Katie Cappuccio, of the Cal State Fullerton PD, has been a member of WLLE since November 2012 and, for the past three years, has served as its treasurer.
“WLLE networking events provide a less formal, more social environment to mingle and network with colleagues, professionals and friends,” Cappuccio said. “Having experienced similar simulators, I thought this one was a great learning tool and I was impressed by the simulator’s interactive capabilities with participants.
“It was a great night.”
Det. Corp. Carin Wright of the FPD agreed.
“I enjoyed the networking aspect of the meeting and was surprised at the level of advancement the FATS (Firearms Training Simulators) have made,” Wright said. “If you compare it to video games, it’s like ATARI meets Xbox!”
For more information about WLLE, visit http://www.californiapolicechiefs.org/ or email Sgt. K. Hamel at firstname.lastname@example.org