Tampa PD training with a virtual shooting simulator

Police involved shootings have sparked protests and outrage across the nation, most recently in Cincinnati where an unarmed man, Samuel Dubose, was shot and killed by Officer Ray Tensing during a routine traffic stop.

Law enforcement has come under attack for the use of excessive force by many activist groups. Some feel police are using their weapons too quickly.

To better prepare officers for what awaits them on the street, Tampa Police train with a virtual shooting simulator.

The program gives officers a look at scenarios they could face any day, such as a domestic violence call or an active shooting situation, teaching them how to make split second decisions that could mean life or death for the officer or a civilian.

"Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that experience comes from bad judgment. We don't want officers to have bad judgment out on the street," said Corporal Jared Douds, who heads the shoot or don't shoot simulator for TPD.

Officers have the choice of using a handgun, Taser or mace, all of which look and feel realistic, but spray carbon dioxide to simulate the push back officers would feel if they fired.

The scenarios can change each time. An officer watches a projection play and calls out commands, the same way they would to take control of a real-life situation. The moderator can choose the next step based on the officer's verbal and physical response. The person on the screen could pull out a gun and start shooting, forcing the officer to fire back, or simply comply.

Officers must quickly assess the danger, figure out if the suspect is a threat and decide how many shots to fire if they must shoot.

"The right decision means that the officer goes home at the end of the night. The wrong decision means they either don't go home, or the wrong person gets harmed,” explained Douds.

Unlike most classes, there is no pass or fail in the training, only opportunities to learn and become better prepared for the future.

"By giving officers a chance to practice that in as life-like a scenario as possible, we're going to better enable them to make those right decisions out there," added Douds.

TPD officers are required to train with the simulator routinely each year. The department is hoping to expand the program in the near future, implementing a "pain penalty," in which officers will be pelted with paint gun bullets during the exercise to simulate the feel of real gunshots.