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AWC Public Safety Institute Offers High Tech "Use Of Force" Simulator

Travis Mitchell
AWC TV Services

Arizona Western College celebrated its new state-of the-art Public Safety Institute facility Tuesday morning at a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by local education and law enforcement officials. 

"This may be just a building to some people but to us its a phenomenal result of a partnership," Yuma Sector Deputy Chief Patrol agent Eric Odden said.

The 8,500 square foot facility was built with the partnership of local, state, and federal public safety agencies.

The building offers instructional, office and lab space to support faculty and students from administration of justice, emergency medical service programs, fire science, homeland security and law enforcement training academy.

To support that training, the building also houses the VirTra firearms training simulator. The simulator has five big screens that wrap around a 300-degree training platform.

Training instructors choose from 180 interactive “use of force” scenarios. The scenarios are based on real life incidents such as active shooters in a school or a movie theater.

Trainees can talk to the screen and the system reacts to what they say. The trainee can also wear a clip on electronic impulse device that shocks them to simulate they have been injured or shot.

Realistic “use of force” training is essential for officers so they can be better prepared for hostile situations and get better results when making life-or-death decision making

To get a sense of how the VirTra simulator works, KAWC's Stephanie Sanchez confronted a virtual group of gun-toting teenagers in a forest.

Posing as a law enforcement officer, Stephanie's scenario was to check on a group of four kids who were shooting their air soft guns out in a rural area. The call said that it looked like they were drinking and may be underage.

But then things quickly escalated.

One of the teenagers dropped his rifle and pulled out a handgun to shoot.

After the end of the training scenario, Yuma sector Border Patrol’s use of force instructor Terry Hartman breaks down the scenario and critiques her reaction.

"So your first round you can see was right here. I don't know is that's the appendix or the liver," he said. "But one way or the other he's going to hurt."

AWC campus photographer Craig Fry also tried out the simulator.

"It was kind of nerve-wracking actually," he said. "It is very much real life and you get a sense of what these guys go through on a daily basis."

The VirTra simulator purchased by U.S. Customs and Border Protection costs about $250,000 and each sector has one.

It will be at AWC Public Safety Institute for use by local law enforcement agencies.

Currently, there are about 600 students in the public safety classes at AWC. Homeland Security is the newest degree offered and is available in person or online.

AWC currently offers articulated transfer degrees in Homeland Security and Administration of Justice to both Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

Credit Stephanie Sanchez