Virtual reality gives officers an opportunity to prepare themselves for anything

LRPD is using virtual reality technology to train officers how to deal with high risk situations

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Officer-involved shootings are a very real part of an already dangerous job.

The Little Rock Police Department has had three officer-involved shootings this year. THV11's Winnie Wright got to see for herself, how difficult those split-second decisions can be in virtual reality. LRPD was kind enough to let Winnie come practice on their updated TI Training Simulator to see exactly what it's like to be put in those situations as an officer.

Officer Whitfield went first, to show her how it's done.

"You’re working a business alarm, working midnights, it's gone off several times this week,” the trainer explained to him.

"Show me your hands, it's Officer Whitfield. I work with Little Rock Police Department,” Officer Whitfield yelled at the screen projected on a blank wall.

"Get those lights out of my eyes, man,” the virtual reality character yelled back.

"We've got the lights in your eyes because we are responding to a burglar alarm. We weren't aware anyone was supposed to be here tonight," Officer Whitfield said.

In the first scenario, the guy pulled out his wallet, which is what he was asked to do. The second time: a staple gun, which really looked like a gun. Then the third round, a gun. Officer Whitfield pulled his, and shot the virtual reality perp dead.

"All those skills can be developed here so they have the practice necessary for the streets,” explained Officer John Gilchrist, a training officer with LRPD.

Officer Whitfield is an 8-year veteran of LRPD. Still, even training for officer-involved situations makes his heart race.

"It's very realistic. It's pretty much the same type of stuff you encounter on the streets; you've got that split second in time to make that decision, so it's not something you can't really prepare yourself for, like walking into any situation you would deal with regularly,” the officer explained.

Next, it was Winnie’s turn to try the simulator.

"You just received a call to a man standing on the edge of a bridge. The caller says the man says he has nothing to live for. That's what you have. You ready,” the trainer asked.

When the projector popped up, a man was standing on the edge of a bridge. There weren’t any weapons in his hands, but he kept looking over and back at Winnie.

"Sir don't do it. Don't do it sir. Let us help you,” she yelled at the screen.

At that point, her gun, an actual Glock 40, with an air cannon instead of bullets, wasn’t drawn.

"I can't do it. I can't jump,” the character said back to her.

"Can I take steps toward you and help you get back over? Let us help you get over this," Winnie said.

That’s when the man pulled an unseen gun and fired.

"He was too afraid to do it on his own, so he let you do it for him,” Gilchrist explained.

Her second scenario was completely different. In that situation, a student was in a school, fighting with his teacher. All she was told is that he was aggravated and the class was full of students.

"I understand there's a disagreement. Put the knife down. Put the knife down. Put the knife down and put your hands up,” she said to him.

He was mumbling to himself, looked very disheveled, and didn’t obey the instructions. He charged at her with a large kitchen knife he pulled from his pocket, so she un-holstered her weapon and shot him six times.

"So in that situation, did I handle it properly," Winnie asked.

"Yes, you did," Officer Gilchrist said.

Even three hours after she finished her simulation, Winnie still had a little bit of the shakes; still got some of the nerves. 

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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