By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Eagle Lake police officers John Kopp and Teila Baynes approached two men suspected of drug dealing from behind.
Baynes pulls her Taser, yelling “Taser! Taser! Taser!” to her partner so he knows to pull his gun as the suspects rush to get off their bikes. It’s important, Baynes said, for one of them to have a non-deadly option depending upon how the situation unfolds.
“Let me see your hands!” Kopp yells repeatedly.
One of the men flees and the other spins around and pulls a weapon. Both officers fire their weapons. With the suspect on the ground, the officers turn to Mike Ardolf, law enforcement skills coordinator with Rasmussen College in Eagan, and see how they did on the video simulation training exercise.
“That all evolved real quickly,” Ardolf said, pulling up the screen to show where the officers fired. “You would have been right on line with the target. So good shot.”
Numerous scenarios played out like this Thursday on the MILO Video Scenario Training at Rasmussen College. About 20 officers from the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office and police departments within Blue Earth County took part in the free training, coordinated by Eagle Lake Chief Phil Wills, in conjunction with the Blue Earth County Chiefs Association; Ardolf; and Celeste Voss, community development manager at Rasmussen.
Wills said there aren’t many places for officers to go to receive this kind of hands-on training, which is why he was glad to accept Rasmussen’s offer to bring the MILO system to Mankato. The system gives officers the chance to practice their skills and be reminded of how fast things can happen in any given situation. Ardolf said about 200 officers per year use the system in Eagan.
“It’s real-life scenarios,” Wills said.
“But if they make a mistake, nobody gets hurt,” Ardolf said after Baynes’ and Kopp’s exercise.
Two officers at a time went through 10-minute interactive use-of-force and firearms training scenarios Thursday, followed by a debriefing with Ardolf. The MILO system is like a big video game, and officers stand in front the screen and respond instantly to scenarios that unfold, including everything from trespassing to traffic stops to drug deals. The people on the screen are also interacting with the officers.
The officers must use verbal commands and the appropriate level of force, Ardolf said.
During Kopp’s and Baynes’ first run through with the motorcyclist scenario, they didn’t communicate with each other who was pulling what weapon, Ardolf said. But both saw the suspect had reached down toward his pocket before spinning around, and Kopp responded with deadly force.
The second time, they had it down.
“We were just a lot quicker that time,” Baynes said.
Both Baynes and Kopp said it had been about three years since they received simulation training.
“It’s easy to get lackadaisical in your training,” Kopp said.
But even in Eagle Lake, which most people would assume is a quiet community, both officers said it’s important to be ready for anything.
“It can always happen,” said Baynes, who added that all officers are trained to be ready for any situation that could quickly escalate.
Voss said the MILO training is a great way to showcase Rasmussen’s School of Justice Studies and its Law Enforcement program. The Eagan campus uses the training often, but this is the first time the equipment has been brought to the Mankato campus, she said.