Having served for 47 years in policing with the last 6 years as a police chief, I am well aware of the importance of training for police departments. Quality training programs in an agency can attract qualified candidates in these times where there have been shortages of officers. Today’s applicants seek agencies that offer opportunities to learn and retain the knowledge, skills and abilities to be purposeful and successful in their careers.

In recent years the concept of reality based training (RBT) has been introduced in police academies across the nation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken the original “Hogan’s Alley” concept to a small scale city with buildings simulating businesses ranging from “Ma and Pa” stores to larger department stores and warehouses. There are actual houses as well, all of this on actual streets comprising a few block area. This offers a wide range of realistic training scenarios for both agents in their basic academy to in-service training for their sworn personnel.

Reality-based training is a type of training that offers officers realistic experiences in training that will provide them the necessary tools to win and survive the potential critical conflicts that they may encounter. Stress survival strategies and psychological training are not a substitute for experience learned through law enforcement training. These learned and acquired skills can add increased mental awareness, effective psychological skills, and confidence, and enhance the officer’s ability to always think before acting. The Albuquerque, NM Police Department developed a Reality Based Training Center in 2014 to provide training that goes beyond classroom lectures, generic scenarios and demonstrations. The facility was run by Sgt. Ray DeFrates, who worked hard to make this a premiere, state-of the art facility.

I had the privilege of watching this facility grow from its “bare-bones” beginnings, to a modern, full service training center. Sgt. DeFrates discussed his “vision” with me and I witnessed first hand the quality training that our police cadets were receiving at the RBT. I also noticed the improvement in the performance of out officers after graduation in terms of the decisions and judgment exercised by our new officers once out in the field. Sgt. DeFrates developed training scenarios that were based on problems and issues identified by the Department of Justice in our consent decree. As a result of his efforts, the Albuquerque Police Department made significant progress toward compliance in the realm of use of force, crisis intervention and other critical incident incident responses.

Prior to my retirement, the RBT was also used extensively for remedial training for officers who were having trouble understanding and applying the new policies in our agency. It was also used to train new supervisors in their role at the scene in many of the difficult decisions involving their officers. APD has always used an assessment center in their promotion process for sergeants and lieutenants. Sgt. DeFrates helped develop a series of realistic scenarios for these candidates for this process. Rather than appearing in front of assessors in a suit and tie in a hotel conference room simulating a test situation with a role player, the new process has the candidate in BDU attire responding to a call in one of the several different training rooms in the facility. In addition, role players, the use of such equipment and resources such as their own weapons, simunition ammo, police radios and a dispatch center are incorporated in these assessment exercises. The candidate have offered nothing but praise for this new process.

Some other features of the APD Reality Based Training Center is a structure that is set up to be used to simulate searching multiple rooms in a building. There is a shooting training simulator and a driving simulator, all with multiple scenarios and situations for the officers. These subsequent training strategies offer a truly comprehensive approach that can allow the police officer to develop a strong foundation of individual skills. These learned and acquired skills can add increased mental awareness, effective psychological skills, and confidence, and enhance the officer’s ability to always think before acting. I have nothing but the highest praise for the dedication and work of Sgt. DeFrates for bringing the Albuquerque Police Department training into the 21st Century. He is a true professional with a strong knowledge base and experience in the realm of modern Reality Based Training. His unique perspective and insight would be a great value to today’s law enforcement administrators and I would highly recommend his services.

- Mike Geier
Albuquerque Chief of Police (ret)”

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