North Augusta Public Safety officers learning ways to avoid deadly force with virtual reality

CSRA News

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WJBF) — Shoot or don’t shoot? It’s a question that some officers ask on a daily basis across the United States. Now, North Augusta Public Safety has a new tool in its toolbox helping them train for what could happen in the real world.

The “response to resistance training” uses an interactive simulator that imitates use-of-force and verbal de-escalation encounters through computerized scenarios. Courts have ruled that law enforcement officers must have “use of force” or “response to resistance” training. “What we try to explain to our officers in some of the tactics we use is to de-escalation verbally first,” North Augusta Public Safety Lieutenant Tim Thornton told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.

The simulator uses more than 500 pre-loaded scenarios projected on a life-sized screen allowing officers to respond with the appropriate levels of force. Most of the scenarios can be customized for specific training objectives.

Lieutenant Thornton says experience often determines how situations are handled.”They’ve had experiences, real-life experiences on the street that have taught them. Let’s try to do this first. Let’s see if we can talk about this situation down before we have to escalate it to physical force,” he said.

The training stresses response-to-resistance options and involves using voice commands as a way to de-escalate a potentially violent situation. Part of the training also focuses on the appropriate use of force that includes officer presence, electronic control devices, pistols, et centra. The scenarios include examples of domestic violence encounters, traffic stops, emotionally disturbed individuals, high-risk encounters, and “no force required” community contacts.

“It gives us another perspective. It gives us another way to apply what we’ve been trained with. We have opportunities to maybe use in the field,” Lieutenant Thornton added.

Shawn joined the scenario to see what officers may be up against. The situation was resolved peacefully but trainers could have made it go in a completely different direction.

Even though this simulator will not be in North Augusta forever, officials say that this is just a small part of their training.

It will continue to operate business as usual with multiple monthly and yearly trainings.

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