Craven Community College (Craven CC) and the City of New Bern celebrated the opening of the college’s new Law Enforcement Training (LET) center with a ribbon cutting event on March 9. The newly renovated facility is the site of Craven CC’s latest program, Law Enforcement Simulator Training, which will provide unique training opportunities for local law enforcement officers and visiting agencies from around the region.
The new facility was outfitted with a state-of-the-art virtual training simulator called the VirTra V-300 in mid-February. This advanced system has several complex capabilities, such as using real-life imagery and scenarios to test law enforcement officers’ responses and their ability to de-escalate tense situations. It utilizes five screens at 300 degrees to provide officers with over 300 interactive situations and videos, as well as a specialized system that allows program operators to create customized scenarios using imagery of Craven County. Operators will also have the ability to interject different responses based on participating officers’ direction.
“They will be able to practice real-life scenarios that they may not encounter very often,” said Sandra McKenzie, Craven CC director of service programs. “After each officer goes through the simulator training, they will be debriefed by an instructor. This instructor will focus on the areas that the officer did well and where they might need some improvements.”
The immersive and realistic simulations will assist officers with de-escalation and use-of-force training to help reduce the number of police-involved shootings. The program will follow a nationally certified training curriculum to ensure officers stay updated and receive the highest quality of instruction. Training scenarios allow officers to cover a wide variety of circumstances they often don’t encounter until they are actively responding to them, ranging from mental illness to property alarms. Outcomes are based on the actions taken by the officers in real-time with multiple responses from on-screen persons.
The immersive environment presents officers with different scenarios, such as a loudly barking dog and a disorderly, weapon-wielding individual, to recreate psychological stressors like an elevated heart rate and high levels of adrenaline that officers experience during intense training. The goal is to train officers in appropriate responses to a variety of intense, unpredictable situations so they can learn to react in a way that protects everyone involved.
In order to be as realistic as possible, live firearms have been converted into simulated weapons. All of the functioning parts of a live firearm are replaced with a conversion kit that operates off of a laser, which is synced to an infrared camera system located behind the screens.
There will be an operator that manages the virtual scenarios and can track and assess the officers’ marksmanship, and a firearms trainer who will observe the officers’ interactions while in a simulation. Once officers complete a training scenario, their firearms trainer will go over expectations and critique their handling of a particular incident.
“When I first started law enforcement, we didn’t have any type of simulations—we had just real-life encounters,” added McKenzie. “We would train as an agency, but nothing in comparison to what we have available now. The technology that is available to officers today and with us at Craven Community College, to be able to provide that to them, it’s very rewarding.”
The ribbon cutting event featured special guests Craven CC President Dr. Ray Staats and New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw, who each spoke about the importance of cooperative efforts such as these that benefit the community and continually improve the region.
“As our simulation capabilities mature, we expect to become a regional magnet,” said Staats. “We and our current partners have already reached out to nine law enforcement agencies and three departments of public safety across Eastern North Carolina, and the initial response has been highly enthusiastic. We look forward to forming additional partnerships that will highlight another reason the Volt campus is a beacon of educational excellence across Eastern North Carolina.”
This project had been on the horizon for several years and came to life as part of the ongoing Volt Center project, a partnership between the City of New Bern and Craven CC. The City has provided the building and renovations, and the college is leasing the simulator and renting the facility. Construction and renovations, which totaled about $242,000, began last September and included the installment of fiber connectivity, upgraded electrical wiring, new walls and soundproofing materials. It also included the addition of 10 repaved parking spaces and a ramp for enhanced building accessibility. Donations for this project included $50,000 each from the Craven CC Foundation, CarolinaEast Health System and the Harold H. Bate Foundation.
The Law Enforcement Simulator Training program is slated to start next month. For more information, contact Law Enforcement Training Coordinator Mickey Tillman at 252-638-7353 or email@example.com.