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Sheriff's office uses virtual training

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Training

Gage County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Smith demonstrates how the department uses a virtual reality headset for training. The sheriff's office received the system as part of a recent Taser purchase. 

The Gage County Sheriff's Office is using new technology to provide virtual training for deputies.

The department purchased a virtual reality training system to augment and enhance training for deputies and corrections officers on critical incidents and de-escalation training.

Sheriff Millard “Gus” Gustafson said the VR headset and equipment was included in a package when the department purchased new Tasers last year.

“It was our turnaround time for new Tasers and that was one of the things included we could get in the package,” he said. “It gives realistic scenarios to put you in a place where you need to decide if you want to use a Taser or not. There are additional scenarios as time goes on and it gives the deputy a real ability to make the appropriate choices.”

The equipment displays a scenario from several different perspectives. Depending on the actions taken by the trainee, the digital display provides various outcomes.

A deputy or corrections officer can get a "real feel" during the digital scenario they would not be able to get from a written course, a video, or even in-person training with live actors. A press release from the department stated an added bonus is the safety of conducting a training "in-house" and without requiring physical contact between trainees and/or other actors.

Gustafson said some of the virtual scenarios deputies can experience include cases concerning autism, suicide and domestic assault. He stressed that while the program includes Taser training, the main benefit concerns de-escalating situations.

“It’s about Taser scenarios and working through the process talking to them,” Gustafson said. “The de-escalation is the big thing now you hear all the time with law enforcement, try to work to bring them down instead of agitating them.”

The training is expected to be cost effective, since it can be used while on duty, reducing the cost for overtime that occurs during a conventional, in person training session.

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