City buys use-of-force virtual training simulator for police

ARLINGTON – Police soon will start in-house training using an innovative use-of-force virtual simulator that casts them in situations almost as real as the ones they face out on Arlington streets.

The City Council Monday approved the $45,000 purchase of a three-screen, 180-degree Ti Training interactive simulator from Pacific Indoor Tactical in Oak Harbor, at half the retail price.

The initial $25,000 will be paid using drug seizure proceeds, with $5,000 annual payments to follow until 2023, Police Chief Jonathan Ventura said. The price includes the original manufacturer’s warranty and train-the-trainer instruction for staff.

Ventura said the deal was too good to pass up at a time when his department and other law enforcement agencies across the state are required by Initiative 940 to provide de-escalation and mental health training for their officers.

“Decision-making under stress through a virtual training simulator will move the department towards achieving its legal obligations while helping each officer improve situational awareness, critical thinking, communication skills, reading body language, threat cues and de-escalation techniques,” Ventura said.

Creating realistic training environments using the latest technology is “one of the most effective ways to fill this training gap,” he said. The three 11-foot-wide viewing screens can be oriented based on the situation being simulated.

Whether an unknown disturbance in a bank, activity in a dark alley, a domestic dispute or other call, the computer-based system provides over 800 role-play scenarios that unfold in front of the officer or recruit. The scenes are controlled by a trainer, who can also change the outcome based on the officer’s actions or tendencies. They have copies of their actual tools to make the training more fully immersible, including firearms, tasers, pepper spray and flashlights.

Sellers said scenarios can even be customized to recreate actual street and building locations around Arlington.

Starting in December, all new officers will need to complete 200 hours of de-escalation and mental health training in the law enforcement academy. All other officers will need to do at least 40 hours of the same type of training every three years, in addition to the current mandated 24 hours of in-service training annually.

Ventura said it may be up to three months before the system is set up and trainers are trained.

Everett police have a similar system.