University Unveils Police Training Simulator
by Buffy Lockette
If experience is the best teacher, how can police officers learn to de-escalate conflicts or engage an active shooter until they face these challenges head-on?
On March 9, the JSU Center for Best Practices in Law Enforcement unveiled its new VirTra V-300 simulator, which will allow Alabama police to sharpen skills usually only gained through personal experience. The five-screen, 300-degree simulator immerses trainees in real-life incidents where the outcomes depend upon their split-second decisions.
“It’s really the closest thing we have to putting an officer in an extremely stressful situation, where emotions may be high, without them actually experiencing it themselves,” said Kaleb Littlejohn, director of the center and a JSU criminal justice instructor. “We have them work through those situations here so they will be better prepared when they are out on the streets with de-escalation, communication and situational awareness skills.”
The system is programmed with hundreds of scenarios filmed with actors in a variety of environments. Settings can be customized to train participants at a specific location while realistic ballistics are capable of replicating live gunfire. Trainees, for example, can practice arriving at a particular school where shots have been reported, investigate the scene, engage with a suspect, discharge a weapon, get struck themselves, and then study shot sequences and trajectories in the training debrief.
The simulator is used by law enforcement agencies nationwide but can be cost-prohibitive for small, rural departments. With equipment funded by a gift from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the university will make the simulator available, free of charge, to any law enforcement agency in Alabama. It will also be used to enrich the numerous training courses offered by the center.
Established in 2017, the JSU Center for Best Practices in Law Enforcement provides free supplemental training in emerging trends to police officers and other law enforcement personnel across the state, with courses such as Community Policing: Winning Back Your Community.
“I don’t think anywhere in the United States you will find the type of training we offer here,” said Bill Partridge, police chief for the City of Oxford and one of the center's board members.
Police departments interested in reserving the simulator should email CBPLE@jsu.edu. For more information on the center’s courses, visit the JSU Continuing Education website.