Jefferson College is a fully accredited two-year college in Hillsboro, Missouri, that is also the site of the Jefferson College Law Enforcement Academy, a CALEA-accredited facility that provides training for law enforcement recruits as well as sworn police officers from the St. Louis area. Diane Scanga, Director of Campus Safety for Jefferson College, was faced with a dilemma – upgrading her department’s aging firearms training simulator with something that was more user-friendly but didn’t seem like a video game. Her search led her to the VirTra and VirTra’s V-180 judgmental use of force simulator.
Installed in 2015, the VirTra V-180 replaced a single screen firearms training simulator system and instantly upgraded the academy’s training capabilities. “Our old FAT system was a tethered system. It didn’t feel real, and we found that VirTra had the best product for the money,” Scanga said. The V-180 simulator offers three screens with a 180 degree field of view, and comes equipped with a variety of weapons, including Glock 9mm, rifle, and Taser® options. The academy instructors appreciate the realistic virtual reality shoot/no shoot scenario training experience that the weapons and software provides, especially the VirTra Taser shock system, which helps law enforcement officers and trainees learn a valuable and sometimes painful lesson in shoot/no shoot situational training that is not felt in a game.
These physiological responses place law enforcement officers and trainees physically and mentally in scenarios in which lives could are at stake. “The [VirTra firearms training simulator] system is very immersive. You feel like you are in the middle of a real situation, and our officers are amazed at how realistic it is. The V-180 really ups the ante on our use of force training,” Scanga added. Jefferson even warns enrollees before they register for the V-180 firearms training simulator training classes that “stress is inherent in this training” and that participants should consider physical condition prior to taking V-180 use of force training.”
The VirTra V-180
In addition to the hands-on experiences found in the VirTra V-180 use of force scenarios, Jefferson instructors include discussions on use of force trends and current case law, and trainees also receive instruction on the judgmental use of force continuum and how an officer’s presence and verbal skills can help them avoid escalating volatile situations. Communication skills are emphasized, and participants learn how to successfully de-escalate and possibly prevent an encounter with a subject becoming a situation that involves use of force.
VirTra’s V-180 firearms training simulator has become the centerpiece of the four-hour judgmental use of force training sessions that Jefferson offers for academy students and local law enforcement officers seeking to maintain their training certifications. This has helped Jefferson to become a hub for virtual reality law enforcement simulator training in the St. Louis area – something that VirTra thinks more colleges and universities should strive to achieve.
Increased collaboration between colleges, their campus police departments and local law enforcement can allow them to work together to pool resources and fund training and equipment purchases that include state of the art technology like VirTra Systems Inc. Local law enforcement can take advantage of the classroom space that colleges can offer, and colleges can generate additional revenue streams in the form of leased space, instructor time and training equipment use. These win/win approaches are something that more agencies need to pursue in order to ensure that their officers can receive the best, most comprehensive judgmental use of force training in today’s budget-constrained environment.