A Tempe company will be the recipient of millions of dollars in state funding for law enforcement training.
The Arizona legislature allocated $2.1 million to the Department of Public Safety to purchase virtual training simulators to help train law enforcement officers statewide.
Tempe-based VirTra Inc. was selected to provide the simulators. DPS officials praised the technology as cutting-edge, and said it has the ability to immerse law enforcement officers in potentially deadly situations using five screens in a 300-degree immersive training environment and simulate de-escalation training, vital for police-community relations.
State Senator Steve Smith said this technology would put Arizona ahead of the country in training technology.
"This is not your Hogan's alley video game anymore where you shoot the bad guy and don't shoot the good guy and there's your police training," said Smith.
With the increase of attacks on police officers, DPS officials said the simulation would help them better train officers to face real scenarios.
"138 officers have been killed in the line of duty this year. 64 of them from gun fire, [including] 2 here in Arizona," said DPS director Frank Milstead.
"From the moment that we start training an officer, we train them to survive and go home to their family every night," he added.
Law enforcement agencies across the state have had to cope with budget cuts since 2008, impacting not only staffing but also training.
"Almost every law enforcement agency in the state has fewer officers than they did before, they're working more hours of overtime to compensate for that. There's not as much ammunition to fire, not as many instructors at the academy, and there isn't free hours for officers to participate in that training," said Milstead.
Community groups were also invited to observe the training simulation. Dr. Ann Hart, the leader of the Maricopa County NAACP, said she went through it firsthand and got an appreciation for what law enforcement officers face out in the field. She said this type of training is very timely because of the series of high-profile encounters between police agencies and the communities they serve throughout the country.
"Too many black victims have fallen victim to strategies that haven't been utilized, that could have prevented deaths," said Hart.
She added that this technology was an opportunity save lives in the community, both law enforcement and civilians.
Governor Doug Ducey released a statement saying: "Providing the right tools for our law enforcement officers, who put their lives on the line to protect our citizens is vital. These innovative virtual training simulators offer unparalleled preparation for the difficult real-world situations that our officers experience day-in and day-out."
DPS offcials said in light of the unrest seen across the country recently, Arizona was the first in the nation to address the issue on a statewide level.
Seven simulators will be placed throughout the state to make sure agencies in all corners can access them. One will be placed at AZDPS, another at the Mesa Police Department.
The other locations are:
The Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy
Northeastern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy
Northern Arizona Regional Training Academy
Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy
Western Arizona Law Enforcement Academy