Sheriff’s Office unveils VR training system for active shooters and other dangerous scenarios

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The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office is implementing a new immersive virtual reality training system to practice de-escalation, compassionate communication skills, and dealing with different high-stress scenarios such as active shootouts.

The VirTra simulator recreates real-life situations on school campuses, shopping malls, courthouses, and more for law enforcement to practice on.

Following the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said in a Thursday briefing that “now is the perfect time” to install the simulator and begin training.


“The violence stops now,” the sergeant said. said David Weidner.

The VirTra simulator is a 300 degree experience with five large screens, making the V-300 4K experience immersive for the trainee.

Weidner and Staff Sgt. Philip Hallworth went through an active shooter scenario. All five screens were filled with images from a movie theater and people started screaming and running. The two sergeants searched for the shooter moving through the virtual landscape created by the system. Images were taken from real life; VirTra is based in Phoenix.

The system can even take images of the local area. The guns used are loaded with carbon dioxide to activate both the guns and the lasers on the screens. It also gives the firearms the proper hefty feel and feedback of a loaded firearm, so MPs have as close to the real-world experience as possible.

Both Hallworth and Weidner described feeling a racing heartbeat and other signs of stress after the lights went back on and the workout ended. Each scenario lasts about five to 15 minutes. Weidner said over time it’s supposed to become less stressful for officers.

“We call it stress inoculation – if we continuously put them in high stress scenarios, they are able to make decisions in high stress situations,” he said.

The sergeants also walked through other virtual scenarios of communicating with people with autism and people going through mental health crises and school shootings. Since all the scenarios are interactive, a team of operators responds to the actions of the assistants in the simulator.

The objective is to allow each assistant to live the training experience. Realistically, the sheriff’s office thinks they can get everyone through about four times a year and will keep a record of everyone’s training.

Hallworth said, “Once we really get started, we’re going to open it up to all of our county allied agencies.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Detective Javier Acosta described his training experience in the VirTra simulator as “my heart rate went up. I was sweating. My palms were sweating. I mean the stress is real.”

Acosta compared VirTra to other virtual simulators used by local law enforcement, including one that made it nauseating to use, as well as another system limited to one screen rather than San Mateo’s five screens.

“It’s the latest and greatest,” Acosta said, “and I’m really happy and proud that Sheriff Carlos Bolanos made this investment.”

The Sheriff’s Office is the first agency in California to install the latest VirTra training technology. They lease it for $60,000 a year from the agency budget, which Bolanos says “in today’s environment, I think it’s a good deal.”

Bolanos, who is up for re-election in next week’s election, said his department’s expectation during an active shooter is to act immediately: “Our personnel are trained so that during an active shooter incident , we will go in immediately and neutralize whatever threat it is. And I believe that this training is just one more tool to ensure that my personnel have everything at their disposal to immediately deal with a threat in the most efficient way possible. safe as possible.

Weidner shared the sheriff’s enthusiasm and confidence in the VirTra simulator. “We send people,” he said. “We don’t wait, keep people away from children, and trust me, the rest of the world is coming.”

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Copyright © 2022 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, redistribution, or other reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.


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