SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco Police have a new state-of-the-art training simulator which the department is integrating into its Use of Force classes. Its so realistic, recruits and officers training on it say its almost like being out on the streets.
Active shooters in a courthouse. Several people shot, including a sheriffs deputy. A gunman uses a hostage as a shield.
That is one of 200 role play scenarios San Francisco police are using in their new virtual training simulator.
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The scenarios require split second decisions.
Sgt. Steven Pomatto is in charge of the SFPD's physical training and defensive tactics. "We just really deter from excessive force and we also deter from not using enough force. So there's a happy medium we're looking for."
The old simulator had only one large screen in front. This one has five screens that project a 300 degree virtual world. Ambient noise blares out from six speakers.
"We have a school shooting where I have a constant bell in the back. I have cellphones going off. I have screaming," he said.
Which you didn't have in the old one?
"I didn't have in the old one," says Pomatto.
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I'm invited to try my hand at the simulator. Pomatto puts the gunbelt on me. I'm having a hard time getting the gun out of the holster.
The holster has a strap which you have to remove from the top of the gun and also a safety button at the side which you pull down to release the gun.
The scenario I try, is when a homeowner is upset that his neighbor is in his home. His daughter calls 911. A Sgt. responds.
The daughter says it's happened before. The neighbor has intruded even though her father has warned him not to. When asked if he has a weapon, she says she has not seen one. The officer goes to the open door and asks if anyone is in.
He walks inside and see's a man in wheelchair talking to someone, presumably the neighbor. The man in the wheelchair also has a gun.
He suddenly shoots the cop and turns and fires on the other man, who runs off screen. I fire off five rounds.
All of them hit the suspect.
Sgt Pomatto asks me later, "What did you do? Why did you do it?"
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I answer, "I didn't realize I had fired five shots."
He says my reaction time and stress factored into my response and that I fired them off because there was a direct threat.
I told him I wanted to try it again. This time, I had trouble getting my gun out of the holster this time -- the safety button!
And when I did, I shot him after he threw down his weapon. Not good.
One important thing you learn here is that critical incidents can escalate in a nano-second. Maybe even more critical, is your training.
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