Aug 1, 2009: Black Laser Learning, Inc.® conducted a two-day Law Enforcement sonar training course in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“Found him!” shouted the officer staring at the sonar image of a drowning victim on the computer screen. In this case, the victim happened to be a practice manikin sunk to the bottom of a Baton Rouge canal. While no technology can completely replace a diver, the new cost-effective sonar systems can make the dive team extremely efficient.
Law Enforcement Sonar Training
Whether searching for a drowning victim in zero visibility or mapping an underwater crime scene, high resolution side scan sonar provides images and target positions to guide the diver directly to the target.
However the ability to conduct an accurate and effective sonar search is a skill which must be learned and practised. Fire arms training and time on the range significantly improve shooting skills. There is no difference operating a sonar. Field teams must fully understand how to operate the sonar and spend time drilling operations to perfect their craft.
All too often, officers and marine rescue personnel are provided new equipment with very little training and more importantly, no practice field opportunities after the initial purchase. Training and practice equal experience. Recent experiments by the U.S. Navy statistically proved that additional sonar training significantly improved the sonar operator’s ability to detect targets and reject false targets with far more accuracy than prior to the training.
While the law enforcement mission may differ from the military objective, the need for training and benefits from experienced instructors is not. The ability to recognize the sonar image of a drowning victim in a cluttered bottom is vastly improved if the operator has a working knowledge of sonar and has seen a library of example images. Such training should also cover how to optimize the sonar system for specific types of search operations as well as understanding the nuances of search patterns.
All the aforementioned skills were part of an intensive two-day side scan sonar training in Baton Rouge, LA. The event was held in cooperation with the E. Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, with participation by the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana Division of Fish and Game, and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Day 1 included 10 hours of intense classroom study focused on sonar theory and image interpretation with special emphasis on locating and identifying drowning victims. The combination of theory and field OPS allowed the officers to thoroughly understand the subject, and then practice the field techniques. The classroom also included a section on crime scene evidence collection. A properly tuned side scan sonar becomes the underwater camera accurately mapping debris and other evidence that can take dozens of hours of dive time.
More and more law enforcement and marine rescue units are adding sonar systems to their available response equipment. In the hands of a skilled operator, this equipment can allow for safer and more efficient recovery of drowning victims and document underwater crime scenes. Like any other law enforcement tool, officers must be skilled in its use. Training and life-like field drills are essential preparation for when the real 911 call comes in.
Black Laser Learning Inc.® is currently working on a Law Enforcement sonar training program on DVD that will allow more officers to benefit from the Black Laser Learning® training program in a more cost-effective manner.
About Black Laser Learning: Black Laser Learning® is an education company specializing in distilling complex technological subject matter into easy-to-understand training segments presented live, by DVD or computer-based interactive training formats. Our clients include the U.S. Navy and Marine Law Enforcement organizations.