The Dallas Police Department is using a new multi-screen simulator to help provide more training for officers in active shooter situations and other scenarios.
This is the third simulator being used in North Texas. The others are in Fort Worth and Denton.
Police say the $500,000, five-screen simulator will undoubtedly save lives by allowing officers more opportunities to think through countless situations.
But they admit, there are also limitations.
“There are a lot of things that go into making a right decision,” said Harry Blust, Dallas PD senior corporal.
That is why the Dallas Police Department used a federal grant to purchase a five-screen, 300 degree training simulator.
“A lot of mistakes you see across the country, they don't go through this kind of training,” said Brian Mitchell, senior corporal with the Reality Based Training Unit.
With the images surrounding their peripheral vision, officers say it feels real.
“These weapons are our own weapons that we carry every day on patrol,” Mitchell added. “We replace the barrels with a laser based system.”
The lasers then register on the screen where the shot was fired.
“[The] biggest surprise is how they get drawn into the scenario,” Mitchell said.
One of the situations is an active shooter scenario at a movie theatre, in which an officer must decide how to handle a gunman holding a hostage.
“Where the shooter comes out, he had already shot at one person. He's holding a hostage, so he's already shown us a willingness to already kill people. So as an officer, at that point in time, I can't hesitate taking that shot,” Blust said. “Practicing scenarios like this will build my confidence in taking that shot."
In another scenario, officers are faced with a gunman who they have to recognize as an officer in plain clothes.
“So the more time they spend under that stress, and we've got to create the good stress and not the bad stress, but we're going to use that to our advantage,” said Mitchell. “Maybe they start thinking about, yes, I'm getting up to that level. I need to take a deep breath, I need to slow down. I need to make better decisions. What they're doing is, they're building a shock threshold.”
Police do admit there are limitations to the simulator.
“The deficiency with the system. We're faced with this guy whose got a gun, okay? We're not going to stand out in the open. We're either going to take the shot right away or we're going to find some cover. This stage does not really allow us to do those things," Blust added.
DPD received the simulator about seven months ago, and they are not using it at this time to train recruits.
The department does plan to have current officers receive regular time using the simulator, but it will only make up about a quarter of their training time.
Reality-based training with live actors will continue to make up the majority of an officer's training.