High-tech tactical training for officers at COD

August 17, 2011

Armed with fake bullets, tactical members re-created a 1997 shootout in North Hollywood between police officers and bank robbers.

The training happens at the homeland security education center at the College of DuPage, a brand-new, 25-million dollar facility that spans 66,000 square feet.

Its mission is twofold: to teach and educate first responders and students who are just beginning, and help veterans sharpen their skills.

Robbers, gunfire and police: a deadly shootout, but this time, it is for the purpose of training, with high-tech laser weaponry that is being used for the first time outside military training.

"Cutting-edge would be an understatement," said Bill Lawler, Director of the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy. "This is really a step beyond, and I know it's a cliche word, but 21st century training, well, we're here. This is the 21st century and we're equipped to go beyond that."

The exercise is based on reality: North Hollywood, California, in 1997, when two robbers in body armor and carrying fully automatic weapons injured 11 officers and seven civilians.

On Wednesday, recreating that scenario, there was an understanding of the value this center provides.

"Out on the street, you get one chance, and you have to get it right the first time," said Officer Bret Goodwin of the Braidwood Police Department. "Here, you can make all the mistakes you want, go back and try a different scenario, until you find something that works."

The center contains a high-tech forensics lab, a smoke room for firefighters, and a section for paramedics.

"This is going to attract a lot of attention, not only throughout the Midwest and the country, but internationally, and that's a good thing, because it allows us to give back to any community that's concerned about public safety," said Dr. Robert Breuder, president of College of DuPage.

Back on the street in the simulation, the officers 'killed' the robbers. In a training room afterwards, they study the scenario, which can be shot from 29 cameras, and review every step. The system records every shot officers fire and every shot fired at them.

"We can teach people to stand in front of a target and shoot all day long, at a very fundamental level," said North Aurora Police Chief David Summer. "But when you take that and now you have projectiles coming back at you... puts a real-life sense of training into it."

The laser technology records shots you fire, and shots fired at you. Your vest beeps twice if a shot whizzes by, and buzzes if you're dead.

This is phase one for the center, and phase two is in the organizing stages. They are set to spend another $25 million on phase two.

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