Customer Profile: California’s San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department Adds a Firearms Training Simulator
San Luis Obispo County (SLOC) is located on the Pacific coast, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, California, and was established in 1850 as one of the original 27 counties in California. Servicing a population of nearly 270,000, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office is well-known for its progressive stance on law enforcement and agency collaboration. In 2015, SLOC Sheriff’s Department was awarded a grant from the Department of Homeland Security for multi-department collaboration. This enabled them to purchase a VirTra V-300 firearms training simulator equipped with VirTra’s Threat-fire, V-Author and Low-Light enhancements for use of force training.
The SLO Sheriff then partnered with the local branch of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection agency, Cal Fire, to obtain a classroom facility that could be available to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies throughout San Luis Obispo County. The location also provided an enhanced classroom setting with cameras that facilitate better learning and more detailed feedback for post-training debriefings.
Sherrif’s Department Need for Judgmental Use of Force Training
The SLOC Sheriff’s Department had rigorous criteria in looking for a new judgmental use of force simulator. Commander Michael Manuele, who oversees training for the department, felt their existing simulator was outdated, since it involved using cumbersome headgear for its shootback system and also suffered from software issues. He knew they needed a system that offered a more realistic experience with software that could be updated and customized according to their needs.
A Firearms Training Simulator is Crucial for Real Life Training
Undersheriff Tim Olivas wanted to ensure that his department’s firearms training simulator was equipped with advanced law enforcement training technology capable of changing as rapidly as the evolving dangers facing his deputies, from officer ambushes to active shooter use of force scenarios. “In law enforcement, we tend to get comfortable, and change is difficult at times, but Sheriff Parkinson has instilled a culture here that embraces change, and we want to put our officers in training that is as real as possible.” There were also countywide staffing and resource issues around training to consider, since local law enforcement often had to spend their sometimes limited resources on sending personnel outside the county for [use of force firearms] training to keep their skills current. “Finding training time is challenging when they are working full-time, even over-time, and you have to send them somewhere overnight to train,” Olivas said.
The V-300 Firearms Training System’s Superior Features
“We’ve used other systems in the past and were satisfied with those results, but those weren’t comparable with the VirTra firearms training system. This was a big step up,” Manuele said. The 100+ different scenarios in the V-300 provides lifelike training that allows law enforcement to better understand the appropriate level of use of force needed in a given situation, confronts them with the decision-making and mental processes they’ll undergo in those situations, and through the de-briefing process, helps users evaluate those decisions afterwards with experienced trainers and positive reinforcement to help them succeed.
VirTra’s V-300 Use of Force Training Simulator Prepares Officers
The V-300 training system not only prepares officers for the most common use of force scenarios, but the V-Author add-on allows them to create new situations as needed to challenge trainees in novel ways, with an ability to educate and debrief as part of the process to further enhance decision-making under pressure. “You don’t get the chance to correct it in the field, but you can with the V-300. That’s the value of the VirTra training system,” said Olivas. The department also liked the different force options available on the V-300, from situations with pepper spray and Axon® TASERs®, along with the multiple firearm options available, from handguns to shotguns.
Because the California Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) has certified the training on the department’s V-300, any sworn officer that spends time in the system can use it towards continuing education to maintain their certifications and keep their skills current.
Today, more than 20 Agencies in San Luis Obispo County use their V-300 firearms training simulator to prepare their officers for use of force situations.
The local community also benefits as well, since training in the V-300 is included as part of the department’s Sheriff’s Citizen Academy, an education and outreach program that provides county residents with an inside look at the Sheriff’s Office and all aspects of law enforcement. SLO has opened their training center to the local community to show the stress and split-second decisions that law enforcement personnel face in life-threatening situations on the job. “We owe it to the community we serve to provide them with the best trained officers we can,” said Olivas.