ANDERSON, SC (WSPA) – The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office will soon use a $200,000 training simulator to help deputies react to difficult situations.
Anderson County Council approved the new equipment on Tuesday night, and it was officially purchased on Wednesday, according to the sheriff’s office.
“One difficult thing for us to get active training on is mental illness, autism, PTSD, suicidal subjects. These are very hard things to reenact, and to immerse our officers in before they actually deal with it in the street and unfortunately, those are a lot of the folks that we’re dealing with in our community,” said Lt. Wayne Mills, ACSO Training Division.
Now the virtual investment will give anyone in the agency a realistic experience to actively train as if they were there.
“The VirTra 300 is an immersible simulator. That is five screens with five cameras and multiple sound system, with multiple different areas in weapons, from impact, to firearms, to less than lethal, flashlight sensitivity, weather, and it allows us to adjust every scenario based on what the officer is doing,” Lt. Mills said.
Lt. Mills said they’ve been looking at the equipment since 2017. The equipment is a judgmental use of force simulator for decision making and tactical firearms training. Deputies will use their own weapons and other equipment in the simulator.
The massive screens will surround a deputy as they interact with characters.
“Where they will be interacting with a screen, with a character, and a situation inside of our own county, and they will be able to play out. They’ll be able to de-escalate or handle that situation, based on what their involvement is with a screen in front of them,” Lt. Mills said.
It’ll take officers, like Sgt. R.J. Brown, virtually inside any building in Anderson County.
“One of the biggest things, it’s really hard to train and duplicate is just interaction with the public. And you know a simple conversation. This system gives us the opportunity to converse in a scenario that’s ever moving and ever changing. And the outcome of that deputies’ response could change a scenario,” Sgt. Brown said.
“Allows us to film or photograph any building, area inside our own county and within minutes we will be able to place it inside of our simulator and train in that environment controlled inside of this building,” Lt. Mills said.
Deputies will also physically feel what it’s like to be at a scene, even if they’re shot.
“The VirTra 300 comes with a threat assessment belt. In other words, an officer will actually be equipped with a device in the event that they’re involved inside of a shooting where they’re actually struck. Then that belt itself will activate and give the officer an electronic charge. That will disrupt the officer and train them to continue on,” Lt. Mills said.
While there have been investigations and protests across the country about law enforcement tactics, the sheriff’s office hopes this will help to build trust with the community.
“One reason is to build the public trust. We’re super excited about having this simulator and allowing folks from our community to come in. We’re actually building this so community members can come in view us go through the simulations and then have them go through the simulations as well. The faster we get to that, the quicker we get to making sure everybody’s on the same page in our community and providing a better service for the citizens of Anderson County,” Lt. Mills said.
Brown said he’s happy the department is investing in the training tool, that will enhance and equip officers with skills as they handle situations.
“Thank you for caring enough about your citizens and your employees and your deputies to invest in such a training tool that allows me to be prepared for my job every day. And that speaks a lot for our leadership,” Sgt. Brown said.
The sheriff’s office said the equipment should arrive within the next 90 days. Officers hopes to have it up and running within the next four to six months.
The department also said it is building other projects at a training facility that will help enhance the simulator’s capabilities.