A CLOSER LOOK: a de-escalation simulator may help police reduce the use of excessive force

A Closer Look

Getty Images.

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — One law enforcement agency in Arkansas is investing in state-of-the-art technology to help de-escalate emergency situations. It is a use of force training simulator called VirTra.

Law enforcement in Arkansas, along with several agencies nationally, are responding to emergency calls where split-second decisions must be made in an effort to protect a person or an entire community.

Just this week in Arkansas, Hunter Britain, 17, was shot and killed by a Lonoke County Sheriff’s deputy. The Arkansas State Police (ASP) is leading the investigation.

The circumstances of the traffic stop and what may have led up to the deputy firing his gun at Britain will be documented in the investigation.  The investigative file upon completion will be turned over to the Lonoke County prosecuting attorney to decide whether facts and evidence in the case are consistent or not with Arkansas laws related to the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer.

ASP

In Fort Smith, an internal investigation is underway after purported excessive use of force on a teen, by a police officer, at an area shopping mall.

Soon, Bentonville may be the only law enforcement agency in the state to have the VirTra 300 Simulator. Funds for the item will be paid through a bond that was approved for a police training facility. “We are actively working with the company to lock down a firm price before putting the item on the city agenda,” said Bentonville Police Department Public Information Officer Adam McInnis.  “I believe there are very few police departments in the country that have invested in this technology,” said McInnis.

“Our police department wants to ensure our officers receive the highest quality in training and we believe this investment will help continue that tradition.”

As for the cost, McInnis explained that there are a few different build options, depending on how the simulator is set up, and this causes the price to vary. “I believe we will have the price in the coming weeks,” he said.

The  Law Enforcement Training Facility would include

  • A virtual de-escalation and judgmental use-of-force training simulator
  • A live outdoor range (constructed on 20 acres of city-owned land near the Bentonville Armory)
  • K9 training area
  • Training building used to house range equipment
  • Bomb Squad/Special Response Team Training Area, and other Specialty Training

VirTra 300 Simulator

According to its website, the law enforcement training device is the world’s first 300-degree reality-based situational training simulator. VirTra’s V-300® uses true-to-life situations from events and creates training points/lessons.

Each scenario is carefully crafted by our in-house subject matter experts— based on case law and after-action reports— and is filmed on-location using professional actors. With each scenario’s extensive branching options, trainees are forced to keep their heads on a swivel as they watch the scenario unfold based on their interactions.

VirTra Website

*WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO*

The above video depicts an abduction of a baby at a bridge. The student officer is on routine patrol and is flagged down by a hysterical mother who advises her husband has taken their baby, threatening to harm the child. The student officer confronts the distraught father, who is holding the baby near the railing of a bridge, threatening to throw the baby over the railing. Student Officer Information: You are on routine Patrol and are flagged down by a hysterical female. Sergeant information: secure the area, call for back up and encourage the officer to verbally de-escalate the scenario. This scenario has a magnitude of branching possibilities from extreme agitation leading to deadly force to calm cooperation and peaceful resolutions. (Both videos used with permission from VirTra)

According to data from the Human Rights Defense Center (published in Prison Legal News), from January 1996 to January 2017, there have been 272 Arkansas police officer de-certifications — two have been listed as “excessive force.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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