San Mateo County Sheriff's Office

San Mateo County Sheriff's Deputies Use VR Simulator as Part of Active Shooter Training

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New technology is helping the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office prepare to respond to hundreds of difficult scenarios.

The training follows recent tragedies in Uvalde, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma, which have forced law enforcement agencies across the country to reassess their active shooter training and preparation.

In San Mateo County, the sheriff's office is using a new virtual reality training system called VirTra. The system trains deputies in many scenarios -- ranging from an active shooter to a mental health crisis situation.

"Each training scenario helps officers improve their critical thinking skills and tactical skills under pressure and the psychological stresses of lifelike situations," Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said.

Bolanos said the new technology can only complement what they have been trained to do for years in an active shooter situation.

"We've been trained for many years to immediately go in and neutralize the threat," Bolanos said. "The training is fairly simple. The moment there are two or more deputy sheriffs, they develop a plan and immediately go in and execute that plan until the threat is eliminated."

The sheriff said virtual reality simulator is also used by the secret service and military. His office is the first law enforcement agency in California to use VirTra.

During a simulation, each training officer is given a gun with a Co2 cartridge and a shocking device. The shocking device will alert the user if they have been shot. Once a trainee is set up with the gear, they walk into the middle of massive screens and the simulation begins.

The dialogue and each shot fired are tracked and recorded. Each outcome will be different. Once the session is completed, the officer's actions are examined.

The sheriff said while they plan to use the technologys even before the recent tradgedies in Uvalde and Tulsa, the new tradgedies make this all the more critical.

"I think what we're hearing very clearly is the public's expectation that law enforcement is going to go in and immediately eliminate the threat to safety," Bolanos said. "And that's what we've been training on for many years."

The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office is paying $60,000 a year to use the technology and plans to share it with all law enforcement agencies in the county.

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