Some people like to bash the police. So officers invited them to walk in their shoes – and it blew their minds.

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ORLANDO, FL– The Orlando Police Department has a new training tool where 65% of its simulator scenarios require de-escalation. The VirTra V-300 4K simulator surrounds trainees 300 degrees with 5 giant screens and more than 300 scenarios with an average of 85 different outcomes and paths towards resolution. 

The Orlando Citizen Police Review Board was recently invited to test out the different scenarios, and witness first-hand what officers truly face when they must make the decision to use force or not. Board member Tom Keen had the opportunity to try three different scenarios.

In one scenario, he attempted to calm a virtual disgruntled worker with a gun at City Hall. In another scenario he tried to calm an irate man threatening to harm a baby, and in the last scenario he had to reason with a man who pulled off his shirt looking for a fight.

After going through each of the training scenarios, Keen said:

“It’s kind of hard to pop into it and know what’s going on, but it does look like it does provide some good training opportunities for police to de-escalate.”

This new, cutting edge training tool tests trainees to see if they can effectively de-escalate a situation with their interpersonal communication skills. If the situation continues to escalate, and force is deemed necessary, the simulator helps train officers to apply the right amount of force for that given situation.

According to Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon, many of the more than 300 scenarios test de-escalation tactics.

He said:

“De-escalation is one of the biggest and hottest topics right now across the nation. 65% of the modules in the system are de-escalation related.”

After the board members tried various simulator scenarios, they had the opportunity to de-brief with the training officers. During the de-briefing, in thinking about their decisions, some of the members suggested in hindsight what they could have done better.

One board member said:

“So I guess the idea was he was going to attack me, but I wasn’t ready.”

Orlando Mayor’s Municipal Labor Committee Commission member Reggie McGill also had the chance to test out the simulator.

In reflecting on the training, he said:

“It’s nothing like what you see on television. I thought it would be much easier.”

Afterwards, Keen called the simulator training an “eye-opener.” He added:

“Each one of you put your life on the line trying to protect others, so I have a greater appreciation for OPD after experiencing this personally.”

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Members of the OCSO African American and Latin American Citizens Advisory Committees also had the opportunity to test out the new simulator training tool. Sgt. Melvin Huggins, with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, said that the citizen groups wanted to learn more about why and how law enforcement officers have to do the job they do.

He said in a statement:

“We do train at a high level, at a high standard to be able to de-escalate situations to hopefully end all, as many as we can situations with less than deadly force. That would be the ultimate goal if possible.”

After the training, Cynthia Brown, a member of the African American Citizens Advisory Committee said:

“There’s a lot of misconceptions going on right now and they’ve been going on for a while, so sometimes you need to be a part of it and seeing it from both sides and not just one side to understand it.”

David Rucker, another member of the African American Citizens Advisory Committee said:

“I am a community activist and I need to talk about different things that happen in the neighborhood. So, by me going through this training, I will have my own knowledge.”

Paulo Dias, a member of the Latin American Citizens Advisory Committee said:

“I was very nervous because you stumble on the words because you don’t know exactly what to say and how the machine is going to react. And I didn’t know what to expect.”

Dias added:

“It was really realistic, you need to talk to the machine. Communication is key.”

Huggins reiterated:

“Many times we come to these scenes and it’s not any of our weapons that are able to solve the problem. It is very much our mouth, our verbal skills, our empathy and hopefully talk them to a place where we can get them the help they need if they need help.”

He added:

“We teach our recruits when we do our program how to do that through the simulator and through live one-on-one scenarios with role players.”

Chief Rolon said that the simulator tests training, and teaches trainees how to control their emotions and adrenaline during situations that cause “sensory overload.”

He said in a statement:

“Of course law enforcement officers have to make split-second decisions when they go out there and things can change and escalate real quick.”

He added:

“It is key for our citizens to understand what it is that our offices confront out there. The unknown is the biggest obstacle for officers when they go to a situation, things can change very quickly and that’s the message we need to deliver and be very clear about.”

An Orlando Police spokesperson also provided some important information about the simulator training.

They said:

“That the interactions in the simulator are so real that officers can also practice managing their psychological responses to high-intensity stressors like elevated heart rate, rushes of adrenaline, and the physical impact of weapons discharging.”

According to Chief Rolon, OPD was already looking into purchasing the simulator training tool back in 2019, long before the nationwide protests and civil unrest started. After graduating the academy, newly sworn in officers will go through an additional seven weeks of training before they hit the streets. This training will include using the simulator tool.

The OPD training center and simulator are open 24 hours a day enabling all officers, regardless of their time on the job to hone in on certain skills to better help them de-escalate situations. 

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