New simulator enhances Chandler police training - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

New simulator enhances Chandler police training

July 10th, 2021 development
New simulator enhances Chandler police training

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Chandler’s police officers will soon have new technology that allows them to imagine how they might react to an active shooter.

City Council authorized spending $256,000 on a five-screen simulation device that virtually places officers in life-like scenarios.

VirTra, a Tempe-based technology company, is manufacturing Chandler’s V-300 simulation model and will supply a library of prerecorded simulations in which actors recreate dangerous scenarios and threats.   

“The immersive experience of the V-300 portrays true-to-life situations taken from actual events,” the company’s sales brochure states. “The VirTra difference lies with the training points and corresponding lessons built into the software.”

One VirTra scenario is eerily reminiscent of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School that resulted in 13 fatalities and dozens of injuries.

The company’s simulation shows several teenagers running and taking cover inside a school library, as the officers slowly surround the armed gunman.

The officers must carefully aim their weapon at the perpetrator and avoid shooting the young bystanders fleeing for their lives.

Although the circumstances are fake, VirTra claims its realistic reenactments can result in better cops and safer communities.

“This system is used by law enforcement world-wide and has a proven training record on decision-making, instruction, scenario creation, and marksmanship skills with pistols and rifles,” the company stated.

Another VirTra simulation has officers attempting to dissuade a suicidal subject from not harming himself with a knife – the scenario typically ends with an officer shocking the troubled man with a Taser gun.

Every scenario can unfold in different directions, depending on the trainee’s actions during the simulation.

Throughout each exercise, officers are regularly bombarded with a cacophony of realistic sights and sounds meant to challenge their concentration on the life-or-death task at hand.

One simulation has officers trying to keep a wild, barking dog away from a group of scared school children.

VirTra’s technology is considered a major upgrade from the simulator Chandler Police has been using for the last eight years, which only consists of a single visual screen.

“This system’s technology is outdated and does not meet our training needs of the department,” said Chandler Police Sgt. Jason McClimans.

VirTra’s videos and interactive simulations allow officers to strengthen their use-of-force strategies, he added, as well as practice utilizing non-lethal actions to detain a subject.

Chandler Police will depend on the simulator for helping its officers complete annual firearm training that’s recommended by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.

Chandler’s new system will also be made available to nearby law enforcement departments interested in using it for training and for various community outreach activities.

The price simulator purchase had been pre-planned as part of the second phase of construction for Chandler’s public safety training center that opened in 2018.

Several other agencies around Arizona have been incorporating VirTra’s simulators into their training programs for the last few years. Gilbert Police recently started using VirTra’s simulation technology inside its new training facility. 

In 2016, the Legislature allocated $2.1 million to the state Department of Public Safety for seven VirTra simulators that could be used by agencies throughout the state.

Arizona was considered the first state in the nation to initiate a statewide rollout of virtual training for its police officers, in an attempt to better help them learn how to de-escalate contentious situations.

“These innovative virtual training simulators offer unparalleled preparation for the difficult real-world situations that our officers experience day-in and day-out,” Gov. Doug Ducey said at the time of the DPS allocation.

In the four years since DPS implemented its VirTra simulators, Maricopa County has logged more than 240 officer-involved shootings.