School violence simulation helps train police

The recent rash of school shootings nationwide has led a Seattle company to develop a computer simulation program to help train police officers on how to deal with potentially deadly situations on a school campus.

Seattle-based Advanced Interactive Systems (AIS) is editing a simulation called School Situations, which will help law enforcement personnel gauge how they should conduct themselves in a school crisis situation, said Frank Perry, AIS vice president of marketing and business development.

The filming of the school scenarios is complete, and the company has spoken with law enforcement agencies who have dealt with the problems. "Now we're editing and splicing with video the various outcomes," Perry said. "The outcome varies depending on the actions of the police officers."

The AIS product uses the company's PRISim system and will incorporate at least eight situations, with three to eight outcomes. PRISim uses full digital video and audio playback through MPEG-2 technology, with real, nontethered firearms, real-time scenario control and a "ShootBack" cannon that fires .68-caliber nylon balls at trainees. Based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 98, the simulation enables instructors to control the level of conflict and alter the scenarios depending on a trainee's performance and conduct.

School Situations was filmed at Mountlake Terrace (Washington) High School. The city's police department is one of many that are expected to use the tool when it is complete. "Violence in schools is a prevalent issue right now and everyone is looking for information to train officers in these situations," said Mountlake Terrace Police Department bureau commander Scott Smith. "I assume it will be a quality product and extremely helpful."

AIS intends to have the school confrontation simulations ready for distribution with its PRISim system by the end of the year. Portable units start at about $25,000, while fully mobile units, like one recently purchased by the Chicago Police Department, cost about $200,000, Perry said.

"School Situations" content sets will cost about $3,000 for a department that already operates PRISim systems. The overall content of a new system can be tailored to include the new scenarios, Perry said. AIS systems are available on the federal General Services Administration schedule.

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