New Virtual Simulator for Law Agencies at COD’s Homeland Security Training Institute Offers Cutting-Edge De-escalation Training to Mitigate Dangerous Situations

By: Angela Mennecke

A COD police officer training in the de-escalation simulator

College of DuPage’s Homeland Security Training Institute (HSTI) has added a new state-of-the-art de-escalation simulator to its robust training toolbox. From active-shooter scenarios to mental health crises, HSTI is at the forefront of training technology, and COD is the only higher education institution in the nation and only institution in the Midwest to procure such equipment.

Similar to the Vir-Tra Training Simulator that has been housed at the College’s HSTI since 2015, the new de-escalation simulator transports COD Suburban Law Enforcement Academy (SLEA) recruits, local law enforcement officials and security personnel into real-life, live-action filmed scenarios with a 300-degree field of vision.

Consisting of four rooms connected by hallways, the simulator allows participants to engage in de-escalation techniques by quickly reacting to real-world situations in a matter of seconds. With more than 1,000 different scenarios, HSTI faculty watch live through a control room, escalating or de-escalating the simulation based on the participant’s behavior. Once a situation is resolved, the participant moves on to the next room to take part in another high-stakes scenario.

“We are able to take de-escalation training to a whole new level,” said Associate Dean of Public Service and Homeland Security Training Institute Tom Brady. “Scenarios are thrown at the participants quickly, which is exactly how situations unfold on the job. But in the simulator, HSTI faculty can train, redirect, coach and mentor students in real-time and intervene for learning opportunities. Participants will review what went well and what could have been done differently. De-escalation training teaches officers to slow down, create space and use communication techniques to defuse a potentially dangerous situation.”

With Illinois elected officials requiring mandated 40-hour Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) training for all law enforcement officials, the simulator already is in high-demand from agencies across DuPage County and beyond, said HSTI Program Manager John Mondelli.

“With our new simulator, as well as the Vir-Tra simulator, we are able to build CPI training into our curriculum giving our SLEA recruits a leg up when they go out onto the streets as a new police officer,” he said. “We also are getting daily calls from law enforcement agencies asking to book the simulator for their own use. HSTI offers so many unique training opportunities that these agencies normally wouldn’t have access to.”

Mondelli has spent his storied career in law enforcement, most recently working at the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office as the Basic Corrections Academy Director and Training Division Director mentoring students, including de-escalation training.

“Communication is the biggest tool in a law enforcement officer’s toolbox which is one of our main pillars of learning with our students,” he said. “They need to quickly determine if someone is in a mental health crisis and how to respond appropriately to resolve the situation before it escalates into a life-threatening situation.”

In 2019, more than 1,000 local administrators and educators utilized the Vir-Tra simulator, and soon they will have the opportunity to utilize the de-escalation simulator as part of their school district’s emergency management training.

“While our primary target audience with our technology is law enforcement officials, we aren’t a one-trick pony,” he said. “Our goal at HSTI is to not be the status quo. We want to stay ahead of what training opportunities are out there so this means always having our finger on the pulse.”

HSTI at College of DuPage is focused on education for law enforcement, fire science, first responders and corporate security personnel in the area of homeland security. Together with the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy, HSTI sets the bar for education of today's current and future generations of emergency responders, private sector security professionals, School Administrators, Support Staff and police officers.

College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 21,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants seven associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.