Virtual reality simulator trains police officers for school shootings in one parish

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VirTra is a virtual reality simulator used to train police and military personnel, and now there’s one in Acadiana.

The St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office purchased VirTra two years ago.

“You can simulate sounds and distractions. It’s basically a real life situation,” Major Ginny Higgins with the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office said.

VirTra simulates a variety of dangerous scenarios law enforcement officers can encounter. The officers can even train for school shootings.

The system has five screens, giving trainees a 350 degree view of their surroundings.

Major Higgins said one of the biggest benefits of VirTra is the ability to insert the community.

“They can actually take pictures and make their own scenarios to fit our area,” Major Higgins said.

The sheriff’s office plans to take pictures and videos of local high schools. They can then upload them into VirTra and simulate a school shooting inside.

VirTra is also cost-saving.

“They’re not going to be wasting ammunition on the range if someone is a troubled shooter,” Major Higgins added.

Instead of bullets, the guns are loaded with compressed air, but they still weigh the same as firearms used on duty.

Higgins says she can’t believe how real the VirTra simulations feel.

“You literally feel like you are in that situation.”

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