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Dothan Police Officers Test Skills On WCC’s Virtual Simulator

9/21/2015

Dothan, Ala. – A Dothan Police Department (DPD) officer stepped into a situation that is all too common. Paired with a partner, they approached an intoxicated man in an alley who had outstanding warrants. The officer scanned the perimeter while his partner handcuffed the resistant criminal. From behind him, a pickup truck slowed to a stop, and a man stepped out with a rifle. 


The real world offers distractions for officers in the field, and in this case they included a siren, an aggressive dog barking, and a physically and verbally resistant criminal. Luckily for both officers, the event was virtual and they were able to walk away.


The experience was provided to DPD officers as part of a pilot program in WCC’s Criminal Justice department using the Virtra 300 Law Enforcement Simulator. The program is designed to determine the type of training that the simulator can offer to area law enforcement in addition to their annual training requirements. 


The Virtra, which is the newest simulation technology on campus, is a use-of-force simulator that enhances the training of law enforcement officers and criminal justice students alike. 


During the visit each officer interacted with the simulator and was outfitted with a retrofitted Glock which recoils and sounds like a real weapon, but doesn’t shoot real bullets. The Virtra computer records their “hits” and “misses,” and gives the officers a “shock” when they are shot by a perpetrator. Each officer participated in four scenarios, including a welfare check, home burglary, foot patrol, and an active shooter in an office environment. 


Devon Fields, a former Wallace Community College student and graduate of the police law enforcement academy in Selma, Alabama, was one of the officers who tested their skills during the visit. “This training reminded me that you have to have a different perspective when you go into a situation,” said Fields. “You have to be aware of everything going on around you.” Fields has been with the DPD for two years.


Sgt. Scott Smith, DPD Training Officer, said that it is easy to concentrate on one aspect of a scene and forget about the surrounding landscape. “You’ve got to resist having tunnel vision,” he told several officers during their critique. Smith had positive things to say about the role of the simulator in training. “This simulator could help keep officers situationally aware, and it would be a good refresher to battle complacency, which can have disastrous results.”


“This gives us real life, interactive scenarios where our decisions can affect the outcome,” said DPD Lt. Rachel David. “Unlike a real-life incident, the simulator gave us time to analyze the result immediately afterwards.” Sgt. Mac Eggleston agreed. “This reminds us, in a safe environment, the consequences of wrong decisions. These are real-life scenarios that are put to the test by using sensory overload that challenges your ability to stay focused. No scene is what you expect,” he remarked. 


WCC Criminal Justice instructor Jason Owen endorses the controlled environment for training veteran officers and students alike. Owen stressed the benefit of the simulator to local law enforcement training. “It allows training personnel to observe their officers and make the necessary corrections. It teaches officers to be prepared for the unexpected and react,” he said. Owen would like to see police departments use the simulator during their annual professional development, or at least every couple of years. 


WCC is the only community college in Alabama to use this advanced training tool in its curriculum.


For more information on the Criminal Justice program at Wallace Community College, please call (334) 556-2247 or visit www.wallace.edu.


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