HPD using top-notch, immersive training simulator

Published: Aug. 8, 2019 at 8:27 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The Huntsville Police Department now has the latest, cutting-edge technology to train officers.

A new simulator is allowing members of the agency to practice handling different situations so that they can improve their response to various scenes and calls when they’re on duty.

Department officials say it is revolutionary equipment and training for law enforcement.

The Virtra 300 Simulator is a new, top of the line system. It provides 300 degree wraparound video.

“This simulator is designed to integrate all the different aspects of our training into real simulations. The company actually hired real actors to create those scenarios because the realism of those scenarios is really important. If you don’t feel like it’s real life, it doesn’t have the same impact,” explained Captain Dewayne McCarver, HPD Director of Training.

McCarver and members of the training staff conducted a demonstration with the Virtra 300 for members of the media on Thursday at the Huntsville Police Academy.

It has more than one screen and a completely diversified set of scenarios. It’s three hundred degrees of training activity, so officers can see in every direction, just like in the real world.

The officers are able to use all of the same equipment, the same weapons systems and the department’s verbal de-escalation tactics because everything has been integrated into the system.

Prior to this system, most simulators provided scenarios where everything went the same way every time. But Virtra 300 allows for a completely diversified set of scenarios.

“In this system, they may go into today on a scenario and when they run through the training, they didn’t use any force. If they come back and train with us tomorrow, they can run through the same scenario and the guy may pull a gun,” McCarver said.

That’s vital, he added, because then officers can never get comfortable with any scenario, so they don’t get “training scars” where they get used to a certain event playing out one way.

“You get that amped up feeling when you go into a tense situation and the more often you can feel that in training, the better they’re able to control themselves and their emotions and their own intensity as they’re thinking through these situations. It just makes them better. The goal is to provide the best response we can provide, and I feel wholeheartedly that this system is providing that.,” Cpt. McCarver stated.

All members in the department will be using the system, including new recruits and veteran officers.

HPD will also be inviting local law enforcement partners in the area to train with the technology.

The department doesn’t just do simulation work on active shooting situations. They routinely train with Huntsville Fire and HEMSI to make sure they can work together to stop a threat, care for the injured and get important information out to the public.

“If we have an active shooter situation, it won’t just be the Huntsville police officers who respond. It’ll be the sheriff’s office, Madison, Gurley. Every cop in this area is going to respond. We want to make sure our brothers and sisters in blue are as prepared as we are so we want to provide this training to everybody,” McCarver added.

The Huntsville Police Academy recently acquired the Virtra 300. Officers are using it to hone their communication skills and tactical and verbal de-escalation techniques. They can prepare for when they might need to use their taser and what they need to do in deadly force situations.

It enables officers to train for the most difficult real-world situations, including ambushes and active shooters, and maintain full situational awareness during extreme stress.

Before, most simulators only had one screen. Then, officers would get used to focusing straight ahead. But threats can come at them from any direction at any time.

“They have to be aware of everything going on around them,” McCarver stressed.

HPD has a lease agreement with the system. The city is spending around $50,000 a year to have it.

“The way I look it is that we can have one poor decision-making incident out there with an officer and it would cost the city far more than $50,000 so this is an investment that’s well worth it and our city council agreed. We’re lucky to get it,” McCarver said.

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