As a driver got out of a vehicle on a traffic stop, Tooele County Sheriff’s Deputy Clint Fox held up his hand and warned the man to get back in the vehicle.
When he continued to advance and brought out a knife, Fox drew a gun, pulled the trigger and the suspect fell to the ground. The video stopped and Tooele County Sheriff’s Office Det. Tony Chapman asked Fox to turn around.
“Did he shut the door behind him? Were there other passengers in the vehicle?” Chapman asked. The video, and Fox’s shooting, were part of a special weapons and tactics team training exercise at the J. Chapman Academy in Salt Lake City. SWAT teams from the Tooele City Police Department and Tooele County Sheriff’s Office attended the academy Thursday for classroom instruction and hands-on shooting training.
No bullets were fired. All shooting was done from a handgun about the size of a 9 mm or .40-caliber that was outfitted with a laser that relayed each shot and the accuracy thereof to a computer simulator.
Although no bullets were actually fired and no suspects were actually shot, the officers acted out the simulations as if they were real. It cost nothing for either department to train. Joe Chapman, owner of the academy, said the system is typically used by students of the academy and of Chapman Security Investigations, a private investigation and security company also owned by Chapman. Police departments and SWAT teams have used the system before, but this is the first time its use has been offered free, he said.
“I’ve had other law enforcement agencies come through here and pay us, but with the economic crunch so many departments have, they can’t afford something like this,” Joe said. “It’s here and it’s not costing us anything. If this helps law enforcement do their job better, we’re glad to help.”
Joe said he plans to allow free use of the system, which costs between $30,000 to $40,000, to other SWAT teams and police agencies throughout the state. Tooele City and Tooele County’s SWAT Teams were first up to use the system because of Joe’s connection to the area — he lives in Stansbury Park and Tony is his son.
Sgt. Todd Hewitt, who leads the Tooele City SWAT Team, said training with Tooele County’s SWAT Team was particularly beneficial because the two groups tend to assist each other in SWAT operations. “It’s in a safe environment and it gives us a chance to work with the county, which is very important because if something happens in our community we’ll most likely end up working together,” Hewitt said.
Besides video simulations, which depict various traffic stops or SWAT scenarios, officers had drills on marksmanship, differentiation of threatening targets from nonthreatening bystanders, shooting speed and shifting targets. Hewitt said to replicate the drills would require the cost of ammunition at least, and some would be cost prohibitive and impractical to execute on a shooting range.
“The big thing for us is use of force scenarios,” he said. “It’s a lot different from paper targets. They have to actually go through the scenario. This is training you can’t do at the range. You can hire actors and use prop loads, but those are expensive and nobody has the budget for that.”
Joe said he believes the need for training is especially heightened by violent incidents such as the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting on Dec. 14 that killed 20 children, six teachers, the shooter and his mother. He said he is also offering the use of the training system on Saturdays to any groups who wish to use it, with the request that groups schedule their training by the Wednesday before. The benefit of the system for people, and especially for officers, is to go through a dangerous scenario to learn the terrain so that if such an incident occurs, they will be more prepared to act appropriately.
“It can simulate real-world scenarios that unfortunately people in [the law enforcement] profession might have to deal with,” Joe said. “This helps them to learn it without having to experience it. At least if they train on these things they’ll be more experienced.”