FBI agents from Washington, DC are in Spokane looking at how the Spokane Police Department prepares its officers for use of force situations, and one way they do that is with a new virtual reality training system that uses interactive video -- and a painful little jolt -- to keep officers on their toes.
The 180-degree indoor training simulator -- dubbed VirTra -- is one way the department is working to increase the level of training in use of force situations. Even when the snow's flying outside its a chance for officers to get some very realistic training.
In one scenario, Officer Todd Brownlee is backing up a patrolman as he takes a man with warrants into custody when a truck pulls up further down the alley. In a split second, the driver gets out of the truck and opens fire, forcing Brownlee to return fire, the make-believe ambush showing just how quickly things can go bad for officers.
"It's totally interactive. Every scene has different branches depending on what the officer chooses to do or not do," Spokane Police Lieutenant Kevin King said.
In another scenario, Officer Rich Meyer is in a standoff with a young man who won't take his hands out of his jacket. Meyer could legally have drawn his gun but gambles with verbal commands. As it turns out in his scenario the man is armed with a can of spray paint.
"The point of training is to train our officers to identify any potential errors or better paths that they can take so when they encounter these situations out in the real world they'll respond accordingly," King explained.
One thing that the VirTra trainer does is that it will deliver officers an electric shock if they get shot during their scenario; it's another stressor that gives police very realistic training so they can quickly make the right decision out on the street.