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The Billings Police Department recently received the green light from council members and will move forward with their VirTra use of force purchase. Police Chief Rich St. John said that this simulator is the right tool for his officers, providing realistic scenarios to train officers in de-escalation techniques, judgment related to use of force and situational awareness.
The Bonner Springs Police Department is maximizing their training by utilizing the branching scenarios. “With this type of training, if you do go down the wrong path—say you are in the scenario shot or shot at—at the end of the day you still get to go home”—Sgt. Jeff Weissman. This prepares officers for real world crises while teaching how to best de-escalate situations.
Recently, Camden County Police Department was covered on CNN Anderson Cooper’s 360 program. Watch here as Camden’s officers and the reporter both interact with the simulator and perform the best use of force.
During Autism Awareness Month, the Utah Attorney General’s Office published this article discussing how critical autism awareness training is. “We’re astonished at the positive comments from our officers. They feel much better prepared to handle calls for service involving persons with autism and to practice empathy in an effective way.”—Chief Ken Wallentine, West Jordan PD.
The Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) has installed a new VirTra system. The reason is two-fold: to expedite the time it takes to train officers in their Basic Law Enforcement Training program and provide better training for current officers. “Our law enforcement partners can now practice in a simulated but realistic environment that allows trainees to get the decision-making experience necessary in contemporary policing.”—Jim Varrone, CFCC Department Chair of Public Service.
What do you do when there’s no training for “when a suicidal man points a gun toward his own head and walks toward City Hall after being fired from his job”? As Lt. Adam Malacara points out, the best thing to do is train as much as possible in a variety of stressful situations to prepare for anything that may occur in the field.
Currently, law enforcement departments are facing increasingly heavier workloads, officers are dealing with more duties and agencies nationwide are finding themselves under more scrutiny. So how are instructors expected to properly prepare officers in preparation for the field and with heavy community inspection? While this is a difficult task, it is not impossible.
Instructors can utilize state-of-the-art training equipment, such as VirTra’s immersive police training simulators, to train officers in a variety of critical skills. For law enforcement, all simulators are equipped with nationally-certified curriculum known as V-VICTA—on topics ranging from crisis de-escalation to mental illness to contact and cover concepts—for free. In addition to critical curriculum, these simulators promote well-rounded training.
Each police firearms simulator is a powerful, versatile training tool. Imagine the ability to train in a variety of environments without having to leave the classroom. Upon stepping into the simulator, will your officers find themselves in a domestic dispute in a neighborhood? A fight in an empty parking lot? The edge of a hiking trail with a suicidal man? Just as the environments are extensive, so are the skills learned from each scenario.
After entering the simulator, officers become fully immersed in their surroundings. Instructors can watch as the officer quickly responds to threats, body language or subtle facial cues on the screen just as they would in the field.
To increase the training realism, VirTra offers a range of less lethal tools that pair with each simulator. Law enforcement can be equipped with and deploy Axon®’s TASER® and OC spray in the simulator to prepare for situations that require less lethal options while practicing de-escalation. Together, these less lethal options help round out any use of force training program.
Besides versatility and realism, police simulators are also cost-effective for departments. VirTra offers the STEP program—Subscription Training and Equipment Partnership—to ease worries about large upfront expenses or obsolete equipment. Rather than purchasing the equipment, the STEP program provides the customizable and immersive training solution through a monthly subscription. All maintenance, service, support, scenarios and updates are included to provide the best, most up-to-date training for departments nationwide.
Other significant cost savings come from ranges, bullets and actors—or rather, the lack thereof. Instead of spending time and money carting officers to the range, instructors can utilize the V-Marksmanship program to train on a variety of targets and courses difficult to replicate elsewhere. By training on the simulator, departments only need CO2 for the CO2 magazines, not the expensive bullets. Or when going through scenarios, all actors are on-screen, thus eliminating the need to find, train and use different actors.
A common practice for VirTra customers is to host a “Media Day.” These are opportunities for reporters and/or community members to visit the department and watch officers go through various real-life situations—or experience the simulator for themselves.
Oftentimes, reporters and citizens are excited to engage in the simulator and interact with the high-end technology. However, it soon becomes apparent that these judgmental use of force simulators are not toys, but rather incredibly realistic, stress-inducing training environments.
One recent example of a media day is the Orange County Sheriff’s Office opening their simulator to members of OCSO’s African American and Hispanic Citizens Advisory Committee. Before stepping into the simulator, citizens were given a TASER and firearm outfitted with a recoil kit and CO2 magazine. After brief instructions, members had to engage in the scenario and try to de-escalate or mitigate harm as much as possible.
After experiencing the simulator, Orlando Mayor’s Municipal Labor Committee Commission member Reggie McGill said, “It’s nothing like what you see on television. I thought it would be much easier. Each one of you put your life on the line trying to protect others, so I have a greater appreciation for OPD after experiencing this personally.”
By experiencing these difficult situations, the public can receive a better understanding on what life in the field is like. It is a rare chance to walk in an officer’s shoes in a safe, controlled environment. Departments who are interested in hosting their own media day can contact VirTra’s marketing department at firstname.lastname@example.org
VirTra’s state-of-the-art de-escalation and judgmental use of force training simulators are an incredible benefit to departments everywhere. Instructors can benefit from nationally-certified coursework and a variety of scenarios. Departments benefit from a cost-effective training solution that promotes skill growth and transfer. Officers benefit from well-rounded training and better preparation for the field. Lastly, the community benefits from better officers and increased understanding of police life. To learn more about these immersive simulators, contact a VirTra specialist.
Transcript from news segment:
As families gather for a joyful graduation at Hofstra University, in their minds, the story of a young woman killed in a hostage stand-off. N shot not by an intruder, but by police.
Here’s ABC’s Gio Benitez.
Reporter: It was the moment of crisis that played out inside this house. He’s got the gun pointed at head.
Reporter: Inside, police say 21-year-old Hofstra junior Andréa Robello was being held hostage by an ex-con — Dalton Smith, who had released another hostage who called 911. Negotiators were dispatched, but a police officer got her first and made a critical decision, he went inside the house. Sources say that was officer Nikolas Budimlic, a decorated 12-year veteran of the force. He’s with the originals and the gunman. Shots fired! Police say officer Budimlic soon found himself face to face with Smith, who was holding Robello in a head lock, using her as a human shield.
According to police, smith aimed his gun at the officer. The officer then raised his own weapon — and fired. Seven bullets hit and killed smith, but one hit Robello in the head — killing her too.
Today, questions. Should the officer have taken that shot? Police officers go through extensive training, but many departments use simulated videos like this.
Officer Gene O’Donnell tells us, — that it was a split-second decision. Ultimately the way it played out, it was probably one nano second which the officer had to make the decision.
Reporter: The other big question, why did the officer go into the house?
In a hostage situation, general protocol is to wait for negotiators. If you have credible information, you wait outside and you get specialized units, negotiators, and really you buy time. That’s what you do, ideally, if you can.