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Area Police Receive Specialized Training in Hiram


Hiram – Recently, Officers from Hiram Mantua, Garrettsville, Windham, Aurora and Portage County Sheriff’s Office had the opportunity to participate in specialized firearms training and driving simulator training from the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy (OPOTA).  Interestingly enough, so did I.
Before you jump to conclusions, picturing an untrained clutz like me wielding a firearm, let me state that, although the firearms training was conducted using a Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol — the same make and weight pistol that are issued to police officers, the gun I used was fitted with a high-tech laser instead of a 10-round magazine.
“With so many police departments in Northeast Ohio, it’s a privilege for Hiram to have this special training, and at no cost to the tax payers,” beamed Hiram Village Police Chief Ed Samec.  “This is an excellent opportunity for all departments in that the training is free. We are honored to be able to host the training and invite surrounding agencies to train as well.”
OPOTA Trainers Jim Meador, Mike Golec and Frank Chung set up the firearms training session. As they walked me through a sample simulation — one of the over 400 customizable scenarios available in the program —  they walked me through what an officer might encounter when making a simple traffic stop with a motorist on an all-too-familiar country road. I watched  as the situation escalated, and the two officers, Meador and Golec, worked in tandem to safely resolve the conflict. They had the same tools that any officers would have at their disposal — starting with pepper spray, progressing to a Taser, or ending up with the Glock 17 — should the situation call for it.
And even though it was a simulation, and even as a mere witness, I could feel my pulse quicken as the simulation played out.  In that moment, when Officer Meador chose to deploy the Taser, it struck me just how brave the men and women of law enforcement have to be to suit up and hit the streets, unsure of what each day holds. And the training they must undergo to enable them to make appropriate decision in the heat of the moment.
Officer Meador referred to that as “stress inoculation”, and feels that as a trainer, it’s his job to ,“put participants in a situation where they’ll need to make a quick judgment call.” During debriefing at the end of each simulation, participants and trainers discuss possible options and outcomes, which often sparks discussions on the appropriate use of force. This risk-free training provides officers with exposure to experiences they may encounter on the job, to better prepare them to make the best decision in the field.
Police work, even simulated police work, is a far cry from my job fearlessly battling writer’s block, typos and dangling participles. Since deadlines tend to freak me out, I declined Richardson’s offer to try a simulation and opted instead to do some simulated target practice. Thankfully, the pistols used in the simulations cannot really shoot, have no recoil, and, mercifully, targets don’t shoot back. But even without a 10-round magazine, the gun was pretty heavy. Perhaps the extra responsibility of handling a firearm added to this weight.
Next, I had the opportunity to experience the driving simulator. Driving Trainer Bob Richardson explained that, while firearms training is very important, most accidents and injuries result from vehicles, not firearms. The training he provides offers 400 customizable scenarios for training in real-life situations on highways, in suburbs, and in rural areas. Possible scenarios include positioning a vehicle at a crash scene, mock pursuits, and more. The goal of training is to get officers to the scene as quickly, cautiously, and safely as possible.
The simulator is set up to mimic a typical Crown Victoria cruiser, with all the same mirrors, console gadgets, bells and whistles a real police cruiser would have. Once I adjusted the seat and belted myself in, the simulator operated like a real vehicle. Weather conditions, as well as time of day were also programmed in to provide even more real-life challenges. I felt more like a sissy than a tough cop, though, since the experience I felt (other than not wanting to crash a police car while an officer watched) was similar to the dizziness I feel at IMAX theaters. I felt relieved when I later learned that some of the real officers had that same experience.
Over the course of the three-day training program, all spots in both the firearms training and driving simulations were filled.  At the end of their training session, each participant received a certificate from OPOTA and the State of Ohio.
The Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy is run through Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, and funded by a percentage of Ohio casino tax dollars. Since its creation last fall, OPOTA has trained officers from over 250 Ohio law enforcement agencies. OPOTA has offices in London, Ohio and in Richfield. For more information on OPOTA, visit ohioattorneygeneral.gov.