On the first floor of the Wapello County Law Center, there is a room marked "MILO Range". The MILO system may look like a video game on the surface, but it's actually a training simulator that lets the officers of the Ottumwa Police Department engage in life-like scenarios, everything from a hostile traffic stop, to a robbery, to an active shooter situation.
The system allows officers to train, grow and improve before possibly encountering these situations out in the field.
"Definitely the most beneficial is the ability to make mistakes in this controlled environment," said Sergeant Chad Farrington, of the Ottumwa Police Department. "We want them to come in here, basically give us their best shot, give us their best plan on how they're going to address these scenarios. We can always talk about it, the most ill-prepared plan is better than no plan at all. And a lot of our officers, you can see improvement as they go through the programs and do repeated interaction with those videos."
Watching someone engage in a scenario is one thing; but participating is another and it's harder than it looks. The situations are stressful and you have to be confident in every move you make. The program responds to vocal cues and can result in different responses, like a suspect either backing down or shooting back, depending on the officer's tone, aggressiveness and professionalism.
After completing each scenario, the program debriefs what action you took and whether you were justified in using lethal force -- if you hit your target at all. This technology is a useful tool and it continues to adapt and improve.
"There is even new technology for this system, there's actually some artificial intelligence that's coming out now where it'll even read the body language of the officers and there's other force-on-force instruments that can be added, such as devices that will -- if a suspect or somebody was trying to assault the officer on screen -- it will actually use paint rounds or something like that to again, stress use of cover, get that stress inoculation in the event that they were in a fire fight in real life," said Farrington.
The MILO system was installed for the department in 2007 through grant funding. Farrington said hopefully funding can come through in the future to allow the department to keep up with developments and changes to the system.