A recent rash of police shootings of unarmed black men, and the shooting of a 12-year-old in Cleveland who was holding a BB gun, have raised questions about how police are trained to use their guns.
Today, Here & Now begins an occasional series looking at just that. We start with a look at simulators. A company called VirTra makes this equipment, including a $200,000 firearms training simulator being used by local and national law enforcement agencies.
Former police officer Scott DiIullo is VirTra's director of content and firearms. He told Here & Now's Robin Young that their training systems are "based on preparing the officers to make these critical use-of-force decisions and we try to incorporate dynamic situations that they might run into on the street."
"We have to let them train through and prepare in these high stress environments so they are better able to deal with it when they actually go through it."
One of VirTra's systems has a "threat fire device," which DiIullo says gives officers physical feedback when training in these simulated situations.
“So if they’re in a situation and let’s say they’re ambushed or they didn’t use good tactics, they’re in a gun battle and they get hit, they are going to feel it. It’s going to cause some stress and some pain,” said DiIullo.
“It’s not used to correct them on a mistake,” DiIullo said. He noted that the point of this training is to monitor the officers reactions and test their stress in situations.
“When they get hit with this, it makes it a more stressful environment because what we found in our training — we put a lot of force science research behind our training — is that when you’re involved in these deadly force encounters on the street, stress keeps us alive and it helps us survives these incidents," said DiIullo.
"There’s always a point with stress that you have these catastrophic effects that will affect officers’ decision making. We have to let them train through and prepare in these high stress environments so they are better able to deal with it when they actually go through it in a real life situation,” he said.
According to DiIullo, VirTra always checks in with departments that use their training systems and wants to ensure that officers are always prepared for real-life deadly force situations.
“We want to keep putting out that quality content and it comes back to preparing the officers that have to be involved in those situations and face to those situations to be better prepared and deal with them,” he said.
- Scott DiIullo, a former police officer and VirTra's director of content and firearms.
This segment aired on December 10, 2014.
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