MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — As racial tensions continue to rise across the country, local police departments are using virtual reality as part of their use-of-force training.

News 2 got an inside look at how the Murfreesboro Police Department is using an innovative method – to teach decision-making tactics.

“It puts you in a heightened alert,” said Lt. Garry Carter of the Murfreesboro Police Department.
The almost 300 degree wrap-around system is made of 5 large projectors which depict scenarios like mass-shootings and DUI stops. Officers are given non-lethal weapons and tasked with acting out their response in real time.

“So, if … a door opens behind them to their left, then they would hear it behind them to their left,” explained Capt. Don Fanning, who operates the technology for Murfreesboro Police. “There is directional sound. So, it really creates as much of a life-like scenario as you can humanly imagine.”
They system offers about 250 scenarios, along with multiple outcomes.

“You have to understand officers are not perfect,” said Fanning. “We’re people. And, so what we try to do is practice here. If I make a mistake here in this simulator, we can talk about it and we can go through it.”

The system is made by a company called VirTra, which specializes in technical training systems for law enforcement.

“I hire actors,” said Lon Bartel, Director of Training for VirTra. “We have actors come in and they have to test for the roles.”

Bartel says the system also has the capability to diversify suspects, as a way to test implicit biases.

“So, we have suspects that are male and female,” Bartel explained. “Male/female Black — male/female White — male/female Hispanic. And they all engage the exact same behavior at the exact same timing. So. now agencies can use that to start evaluating, ‘do we have changes or differences in how officers respond?'”

Murfreesboro is the first department in the area to have this exact system. The Brentwood Police Department is expected to include the technology in its newly-constructed facility, which is set to be completed in spring of 2021.