Expect use-of-force simulations to become increasingly sophisticated and data-driven in 2018. And in becoming so, police training will begin to mirror how elite athletes train for an event.

Making simulations as real as possible has obvious benefits. And they are becoming more real — and the officers’ actions becoming more measurable — by the day.

From Police One:

Dr. Joel Suss, an assistant professor of psychology at Wichita State University, agrees, and says the move to incorporate more science and data analysis into training will mirror how professional athletes have trained since the 1970s.

Elite athletes engage in focused training using the concept of “temporal occlusion,” which essentially involves blocking the vision of the outcome of a movement at a point before a ball’s release or flight. Baseball players are taught pitch recognition by focusing on a pitcher’s release point, and soccer goalies learn how to block penalty kicks by analyzing the shooter’s hip angle and foot placement prior to the kick.

Training in advanced simulators using concepts like temporal occlusion allows trainers to help officers see and understand the environmental queues that can reliably predict what a subject will likely do in a given scenario, says Suss.

Simulators also allow for manipulation of the environment to replicate settings that can be problematic for effective decision-making, such as low light situations or ambient noise. Variables such as these contribute to the ambiguity of making split-second decisions in stressful situations, and advanced simulators permit trainers to inject new information or stimulus into a situation that influences a response to another stimulus.

Another benefit of using these advanced simulators is that they can be run by a minimum of human trainers, freeing up training staff. More officers can also be run through the training course in the same amount of time at less cost because there is less preparation needed.

Aside from pure training purposes, the advanced simulators are also a research tool. By running officers through the simulations and recording their responses, the most capable officers can be identified. By studying these officers, researchers and trainers can discover what cognitive factors are more important and how these can be taught to other officers.