Asking the Right Questions
A Columbia, Md., firm, called SIMmersion, has devised numerous interactive computer simulation games employing real actors to instruct new police officers, physicians, and social workers on how to handle witnesses, patients, or clients without causing explosive incidents or initiating malpractice lawsuits.
When they are finished, interviewers receive a numeric score for how well they conducted their interview, and an in-depth analysis of their performance, as well as a chance to repeatedly play the game.
SIMmersion’s Dale Olsen, who has a statistics doctorate and a polygraph background, worked for over three decades at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physicians Laboratory, where he helped create simulations software that instructed sailors on how to drive nuclear submarines.
Simulator designers explain that while interviewers select their lines from all the potential scenarios shown on the screen and read them to a computer, the responses are written in a conversational manner, so that communication is natural.
One of Olsen’s simulations has trial witnesses receive interrogation on the witness stand by a pair of hostile attorneys. SIMmersion is now moving in multiple directions, while its foundation is in law enforcement.
Former FBI office of information and learning resources unit chief Garland Phillips, who urged his agency to finance SIMmersion’s initial simulation for the FBI Training Academy, explained that instructors discovered that enrollees would frequently spend their personal time operating the simulations. After the FBI was convinced, the academy introduced the simulations to its 56 field offices, and then the 16,000 state and local police groups it helps instruct, as well as additional federal agencies and foreign institutions.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) from the Baltimore Sun (12/22/06); P. 1D; Hobby, Susan Thornton.