STAFFORD, Va. - The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office is turning to the virtual world to fight crime and save lives. The department is one of the first in the D.C. region to use a new interactive virtual reality technology to train their deputies.
It has certainly become more complicated these days for law enforcement officers to do their jobs and that is why some departments like the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office have turned to a simulator to train for real-life dangerous situations.
This year, these deputies are training for the worst with some of the best technology. Deputy Justin Howell is practicing how to respond to a school shooting surrounded by 300 degrees of projection screens and stereo surround sound.
“So the deputy can wear their actual gear, they use our actual gun just with the insert,” said Stafford County Sheriff 1st Sgt. Joe Bice. “They can do reloads the same way that they would on the street. We have OC [pepper] spray that we can use in this simulator. They have the Taser that works in the simulator, the same Taser that they carry on the street and that stuff we just couldn't do before.”
The high-tech system is called the VirTra V-300 where training happens on an interactive stage with guns that look real but fires cartridges containing carbon dioxide.
“It’s harder to do real-life scenarios with real weapons because it’s not like we can go in a backyard and shoot or we have to use some paintball, but it’s not the same recoil. So this gives you that exact real feel,” said Deputy Howell.
Every scene or scenario on the screens can be customized, which allows training for every kind of situation these deputies may face in the field.
“We have scenarios that deal with mental health, which is certainly something that we deal with more now than we ever have before,” said Bice. “They can come here, they can practice their dialogue. The operator can actually change what is happening in the scenario based on their dialogue. If they are doing a good job, it can deescalate. If they are not doing a good job communicating, it could escalate, which is very similar to real life.”
And unlike the goal of a video game to take out as many bad guys as possible, this allows deputies to train to save lives.
“We are not doing this for entertainment,” Howell said. “Nowhere near is this entertaining. It’s just something that sharpens our tools. We don't want to take anybody’s lives. Even if they took somebody else’s life, that is not our goal to take their life. It is to get them help and that is obviously the hardest part.”