SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – After an increase in cases of deputies using force, the Santa Fe County sheriff is adding simulator training. The virtual simulator, called ‘VirTra Simulator’ mimics many of the calls deputies at the Santa Fe county’s sheriff’s office deal with on a daily basis. Sheriff Adan Mendoza says he saw a major need for the $150,000 simulator.
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“Deputies and law enforcement having encounters with people with a mental and behavioral health crisis and also armed individuals and we’ve seen an increase with use of force and demi forced situations that law enforcement are faced with nowadays,” said Sheriff Mendoza.
Sheriff Mendoza hopes the training will help deputies make the right split-second decisions. “We want mistakes and learning lessons to happen here in this training room. In this scenario, not out in the community, there is no room for mistakes in the community,” added Mendoza.
The virtual simulator is made out to be interactive and is equipped to play out any type of scenario a deputy may encounter while out in the field. “The instructor can listen to what you are saying, the commands you are giving and he can change the scenario in 50 different ways. so, all of those things are very fluid,” added Mendoza.
The Sheriff believes more training on how to de-escalate situations, will lead to fewer cases of deputies using force. “I think de-escalation is a big one, use of force, shoot no shoot situations, demi force situations, where de-escalation comes into it or maybe officers can use cover and verbal tactics to de-escalate. That’s just going to strengthen the officer’s ability to gain control of the situation,” said Mendoza.
The program, which took three years to implement, began Monday and Mendoza says he’s already seen great feedback from it. “This is the first training week that we have done with this system and a lot of officers were nervous. They didn’t know what to expect but I think when they realize that this is better for them as officers and better for the community they realize that it’s a good tool,” Mendoza said.
Sheriff Mendoza says they are the only department in the state of New Mexico that has this type of interactive training.