'Best equipment possible:' New police de-escalation training features scenarios filmed in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- Law enforcement officials from 47 different states were in Milwaukee starting Monday, June 10 for an annual conference -- getting the first look at a new simulator created with the help of a Milwaukee company.

VirTra, a virtual reality company, created new communication training using simulators with a goal of helping police officers prevent conflict and calm situations that have the potential to escalate.

VirTra's director of training and curriculum, Lon Bartel, explained how the system works. It can walk you through target practice, active shooter situations, and it has four new scenarios filmed in Milwaukee that help teach de-escalation.



Steve Diiullo

"If we mess up in here, let's mess up in here before we go out into the street. Some of those gray-type use of force incidents that you see on the news -- maybe we can get rid of that right here," said Steve Diiullo, VirTra regional sales manager.

VirTra teamed up with local company Vistelar to create the scenarios. The instructor can pick from a list of options depending on how you react.

"You can place a recruit in any situation, virtually, that he'll face in his entire career. You can do it in a matter of hours," said Steve Shults, director of the Law Enforcement Training Academy in Pocahontas, Arkansas.

"If you value your officers, and you value your training, you need the best equipment possible to train them and prepare them for whatever they’re going to run into," said Diiullo.

Steve Shults

Shults attended the conference from Arkansas. His training academy uses the system, and he said it's made a difference.

"We skimped and scraped the tail end of one year and skimped and scraped the beginning of the next year to try to gather enough funds," said Shults.

The system can cost between $20,000 and $200,000, depending on how complex it is built.

"Money is always tough, and training seems to always get cut first, which it should be the last thing to get cut, but it always gets cut first. How much is a life worth? We don't want any of our officers to get hurt, so the better we can train, the better we sleep at night knowing they're doing OK," said Shults.

The Dane County Sheriff's Office uses the system. Company officials said they were looking to expand in southeast Wisconsin.