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Training simulator OK'd for Bentonville police

by Mike Jones | August 9, 2021 at 3:46 a.m.

BENTONVILLE -- The Bentonville Police Department is planning for its new training facility, but got the OK recently to buy a virtual simulator.

The simulator cultivates communication, decreases reaction time, induces physiological responses and works with less lethal options not typically allowed on a live firing range, Police Chief Jon Simpson previously said. Each scenario has multiple branching options as it unfolds based on the training objectives and the officer's decisions, Simpson said.

It also immerses officers in a constant training program, creating a log of how many hours each officer spends on this training in areas such as routine patrol, traffic stops, disturbances, contacts with citizens, autism awareness, mental illness, hostage situations and de-escalation techniques.

The simulator allows up to three officers at a time to use it and consists of five screens with 4k technology, the chief said.

At its July 27 meeting, the City Council approved a bid waiver to purchase VirTra's proprietary interactive virtual simulator training system, complete with equipment, installation, software and training.

Bentonville will receive the VirTra V-300. The cost is $233,377, Simpson said. VirTra is based in Tempe, Ariz.

Voters on April 13 backed the city's $266 million bond plan for capital projects and bond refinancing by approving nine questions on the special election ballot by at least 76%.

The city will pay for the bonds by extending a 1% sales tax. The tax was approved in 2003 and extended in 2007.

A police training facility will be built in the first bond series for $1.65 million, according to the city. The facility will be built on 20 acres of city-owned land near the Bentonville armory, just off Regional Airport Road.

Simpson said a construction timeline for the training facility hasn't been determined. Officials are in the planning phase and architectural and engineering services were recently brought on board, he said.

The plan is to have the simulator up and running in the next few months. It will be set up temporarily at the Police Department's main facility on Southwest 14th Street, Simpson said.

Other local agencies will use the technology, as will some citizen-oriented programs such as Citizens' Police Academy, the Youth Academy and other public education forums regarding police practices that the department hosts, said Cpl. Adam McInnis, department public information officer.

"Our hope is that this simulator is not only an opportunity for our officers to have access to the latest training technology, but a way we can help educate the public and alleviate any misconceptions about law enforcement practices," he said.

The Washington County sheriff's office has had a training simulator for several years, Chief Deputy Jay Cantrell said. The simulator can accommodate two deputies at a time and can be set up with any number of scenarios, he said.

"We've had good success with it," Cantrell said. "It's cheap because you are not using live ammo."

The state law enforcement's standard course that deputies must pass on an outdoor range once a year is loaded into the simulator so staff can practice before the real test, he said.

About 100 sheriff's office staff members have trained on the simulator, Cantrell said.

"It's very realistic for the guys and we think it is beneficial to have," he said. "The more you train, the more you revert to that training at a critical moment."

Bentonville is the only large city in Northwest Arkansas without its own training facilities for emergency personnel, according to the city.

The Police Department offers training in-house using a training room. The training is typically classroom instruction such as interview technique classes, in-service training and employee development, Simpson previously said.

It has 84 patrol officers.

Bentonville police use the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in Springdale, the Rogers Police Department range or the Benton County range for firearms training for any outdoor training needs. Bentonville reaches out to the Washington County sheriff's office and often rents time at local indoor private ranges when other ranges are in use, Simpson said.

The police training facility also will include a virtual, live outdoor range, a K-9 training area and a training building used to house range equipment. It also would be used as a bomb squad/special response team training area. The bomb squad covers Northwest Arkansas and into Missouri.

Print Headline: Training simulator OK'd for Bentonville police


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