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DPS Invests $2.1 Million In Virtual Training Program

12192016 - Virtra Ceo
(Photo by Jimmy Jenkins)
VirTra CEO Bob Ferris announces his company will construct seven use-of-force simulators throughout Arizona.

Arizona is making a big investment in police training facilities. The Department of Public Safety is paying Tempe-based Virtra Systems $2.1 million for use-of-force simulators.

Since the 2008 recession, police departments facing reduced budgets have had to make cutbacks in personnel and training.

DPS Director Frank Milstead said the state is once again investing in training with the purchase of seven high tech virtual simulators. “It provides the opportunity to escalate or de-escalate in the use of force continuum, based upon the need of the situation being simulated at that time,” Milstead said.

Officers are shown scenarios that challenge their ability to use verbal commands, as well as train with a variety of weapons.

The legislature allocated the money for the purchase last session. Virtra will install the 300 degree, surround sound, immersive simulators at locations across the state.

The centers will serve as training hubs for all Arizona law enforcement agencies.

One of the systems will be housed at the Mesa Police Department. Assistant Chief Mike Soelberg said the department will use the trainer with new recruits as well as current officers.

“Through our training we can coach them, give them different perspective on where to move how to move, what to say, how to engage that threat, different options that they may have,” Soelberg said.

VirTra CEO Bob Ferris said Arizona is a pilot program for the statewide training approach. He said he's in talks with other states as well. "We think Arizona is just the tip of the iceberg," Ferris said. "We do expect this to grow in Arizona to include more simulators and insure every officer gets routine training. We also see it expanding to other states."

Arizona law enforcement agencies will train current employees to serve as instructors for the training programs. DPS does not foresee any additional future costs for the program.

Jimmy Jenkins was a producer and senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2021.