New technology is helping officers work under pressure and preparing them for the worst.
The effort to better train Fort Myers police officers is putting them right in the middle of a life or death situation – virtually.
From the feeling of the gun of the Taser to being able to have a conversation with an aggressive person, it allows officers to practice talking with people they may come across so they don’t have to pull the trigger if it isn’t necessary.
“Just because we can use force doesn’t mean we have to.”
And that’s the goal.
“Twenty-six years I’ve been doing the job and I have not had to shoot anybody,” said Lt. Jason Pate.
He trains Fort Myers police officers on how to keep themselves and those they interact with safe.
The new virtual reality set lets them do that.
“This allows the officers to really interact with somebody in crisis or different scenarios and different environments so they really get to develop de-escalation skills, de-escalation techniques, having a conversation with someone, all that we couldn’t do prior,” Pate said.
A senior officer in another room sets the scene, picks the avatar and then interacts with the trainee. They can control what the suspect does, from their body language to their actions, all depending on how well the trainee commands them.
If they do well, the avatar will comply. If the trainee needs to do better, things can take a turn for the worse.
“The last thing we want to do is take a life or pull a trigger to stop someone,” Pate said.
“You want to end the scenario that goes with everybody being safe, everyone going home safe or going to jail safe.”
The training is about as real as officers can get without actually experiencing it on the street.
FMPD is one of only two agencies in the whole state with this system.