(The Center Square) – A Springfield Black Lives Matter organizer hopes a training event several members of the group took part in with Illinois State Police on Saturday will be a model moving forward for elsewhere throughout the state and the country.
“Police officers make split-second decisions every day in order to effectively protect the public," ISP Col. Tim Tyler said in a statement. "It is extremely vital, that our officers are trained to this capacity and know-how to effectively de-escalate situations when possible. Likewise, it is extremely important to know which appropriate action is required in order to maintain officer and public safety. Education is important not only for those we train but also for the public and those we protect.”
ISP trainer Sgt. Tom Monti said new technology called Multiple Integrative Learning Objectives, or MILO, at the training academy provides a simulated experience playing 4K video on a 180-degree wraparound screen. The program has hundreds of scenarios.
“Everything from the highest threat level which would probably be an active shooter like in a school or a workplace all the way down to basically verbal interaction scenarios,” Monti said.
ISP has four such firearms and use of force simulators located in Chicago, Pesotum, Belleville and Springfield.
ISP showed the technology to Springfield’s independent Black Lives Matter group. Organizer Sunshine Clemons said Saturday’s event is just the beginning of building upon a relationship of mutual understanding.
“They’ve expressed an interest in providing this information to other community groups so I think that’s very admirable and we appreciate that because we’re not going to be able to improve our relationship if we don’t foster a relationship where we can actually work together,” Clemons said.
Clemons took part in one scenario where she approached a vehicle without license plates and a woman inside who reached for her glove compartment while at the same time revealing a gun under her thigh. The system had different outcomes, ranging from the driver shooting the scenario participant to the driver actually being an off-duty police officer.
Clemons said experiencing such a range of possible outcomes for any given scenario can also help in the conversation she says Black families have to have with their children about their interactions with law enforcement.
“I think it is a useful tool to be able to tell our children ‘these are some things that you might need to prepare for, if they’re doing this, this might be why they are doing this, and then you can react accordingly,’” she said.
Clemons also said her group supports defunding the police or reallocating funds to other services to handle calls dealing with non-violent issues.
“Defunding and reallocating, they essentially mean the same thing,” Clemons said. “We support the idea of readjusting the finances and allowing police to focus on issues that really fall more under their wheelhouse and some of those social service issues, directing money towards the proper programs that would need to handle those, so that is something we support.”
The 900 different scenarios as part of MILO include interaction with people who may be on the autism spectrum or have other conditions.
Monti said they can also produce their own scenarios for the technology. As a former member of the ISP’s SWAT team, Monti said the simulator does increase stress levels which helps fine-tune decision making under stressful situations.
Joshau Allotey, a physical fitness coordinator at ISP training academy told the group of five BLM members Saturday that in the academy, the last six weeks of the academy is “scenario crazy.”
“Scenario, scenario, scenarios,” Allotey said. “We’re evaluating them on each scenario every time they do one if they fail they’re brought back, remediated and told this is something they need to work on.”