CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Officers in New Jersey are using groundbreaking, virtual reality technology to serve and protect the community. They are also using it to protect themselves on the job. It’s real-life, 360-degree scenarios.
The new virtual reality training simulator at Camden County police headquarters allows officers to experience more than 230 real-life scenarios, from domestic violence to potential mass shooters.
It’s more than target practice, it’s “talking” practice on how to de-escalate dangerous situations without resorting to force if possible.
“The phrase whose life is important? All life is important. We want to protect everyone,” Camden Police Sgt. Raphael Thornton. “We want to make sure everyone goes home. And if we have to use force, we want to make it so it’s our last resort.”
In August, the Camden County Police Department announced new guidelines for use of force, they consider, the most progressive in the country. The aim is preserving suspects’ lives as well as victims and officers and not dehumanizing anyone.
The VirTra system, now used by fewer than 200 agencies nationwide, is a big step as it’s training officers to live out those philosophies.
“You just have to find those right words and with this type of training, it provides you with that because it will be second nature once you’re out there, you have all this practice,” Camden County Police Officer Vidal Rivera said.
The Camden County Police Department leased the system for $40,000 a year. They say once all the nearly 400 officers have a few sessions, they are going to open it up for other departments to have some time.