DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Two Dallas police officers stand on a platform surrounded by five large screens.
“Do me a favor. Drop the crowbar,” Sr. Cpl. Brian Mitchell says to a figure projected in front of him.
Immersed in a virtual reality experience, the officers are practicing their response to a report of a suspicious person, using the Dallas Police Academy’s new multi-screen simulator.
Sr. Cpl. Harry Blust keeps his eye on several men approaching to their right, when his Sr. Cpl. Mitchell notices another man appear behind them and pull a gun.
“Gun! Gun! Gun!” yells Mitchell, firing two shots and striking the character on the screen.
The scene is clearly fake, but it’s designed to feel as real as possible.
Officers are outfitted with all the same weapons they carry on the street and they work together in pairs to protect each other.
“We have a 300 degree awareness we need to keep,” said Mitchell, who works with Blust as a use of force instructor at the Academy.
A lot has changed since CBS11 got its first peek at the Dallas Police Department’s simulation training seven years ago.
Back then, scenes were projected onto a single wall, making it easy to know where to focus.
CBS 11 gave the new multi-screen simulator a try, stepping into a school shooting scenario.
Staying focused to cover each other’s blind spots, though, is difficult, especially over the sounds of gunshots and screaming coming from different directions.
“That’s why it’s important for us to communicate,” said Blust.
The simulator allows officers to review where any gunshots they fire land.
If any officer is shot in the back during a simulation, a device on their belt clip delivers a quick shock.
“It feels like a bee sting,” said Lucia, after being zapped by Sgt. Wendi Laake, the instructor controlling the simulation.
These instructors say officers, so far, love the new simulator.
About 350 officers, a little over ten percent of the department’s force, have been through the training. The Academy’s hope is to eventually have the entire department experience it.