Jun. 18—Lockport Police Department conducted Reality Based Training (RBT) for all of its officers this week. In RBT, officers are faced with a variety of scenarios that they may encounter in the field. The training involves actors, props, fake blood and shoot-or-don't-shoot decision making.
According to Lt. Marshal Belling, RBT hasn't been offered in awhile. He said the last time Lockport officers had the opportunity to train with the heightened stress levels of RBT was approximately eight years ago.
"We want to kick it off and keep it going. We can do this again this year and do it every year," Belling said. "If we're going to be training more, I'm glad. Everyone in the department likes more training. I feel like it's better for everybody."
The catalyst for this round of RBT, which officers underwent in groups of eight to 10 over a five-day period, was a new chief of police, as well as increased funding for training, according to Capt. Kendra DiTullio.
"There has been a transfer of leadership. For Chief (Steven) Abbot, it's really important to him that we get the best training," DiTullio said. "We have a lot in the budget (for training). We're really thankful."
Matt Hurtgam, a 13-year member of the LPD force, has undergone RBT before.
"We do scenarios to see how we're going to react, and if you do something wrong, you learn from it. If you do something right, it's good," Hurtgam said. "We're doing a lot more training now, so we've got this going again."
Helping to provide the "reality" in RBT are non-police volunteer actors who take part in the scenarios. City employee Alex Callara signed up to play a part after hearing about it.
"So far I love it, it's been great. It's different experience than being just a regular civilian. Doing what I can," Callara said, adding that he had been shot "quite a few times" during the exercise.
"We have all the protective equipment and everything so you really don't feel it," he said. "It's definitely a different experience. Something I'd rather not happen outside."
Belling explained the theory behind RBT.
"What we do is we put the officer in the most realistic situation as possible. It's trying to raise their stress levels and bring them back down. So it's like their body gets used to that physiologically stress level, and when we have them up at that high stress level, we're forcing them to make good solid decisions," he said. "Whether it be life threatening situations or weapons involved. ... Say an officer goes through it today and we raise his stress level, then let it go back again. Do another scenario. Raise the stress level, bring it back down. It's forcing him to make good, strong decisions when he's stressed out. Our hope is that when we get on those real calls, they're used to that physiological stress."
Belling expressed his thanks to Matt Martin, owner of the East Avenue property that used to house Lockport Family YMCA, for providing the training space.
"They reached out to me," Martin said. "And we're really supportive of our community and the police in general, and we're more than happy to do it."
"There's training spaces we would have to pay for and he's allowing us to train here without even questioning or charging us," Belling said. "We're appreciative for that. For us to find a place this big to accommodate the entire police force, it'd definitely be a cost for us."