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Reality bytes: A violent virtual world prepares Greensboro police for the real one
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Reality bytes: A violent virtual world prepares Greensboro police for the real one

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GREENSBORO — Gun drawn, Tiffanie Rudd watched a scene unfold in a school library.

There, an agitated teenager armed with a large knife held several students hostage, threatening to hurt them if Rudd, a police officer, came any closer.

Should Rudd shoot? Try to talk the student down? Wait for help?

Those are questions police officers are forced to consider if they come into contact with a dangerous person.

Luckily for Rudd, the situation wasn’t real.

It was a simulation.

“It’s all computerized,” said Patty Potter, the board president of the Greensboro Police Foundation.

The new training simulator, located at the Public Safety Training Facility on North Church Street, is a much-welcomed donation from the foundation. For about $57,000, the organization purchased the unit to prepare officers for the kind of situations they might be faced with on the street.

Facing a large projector screen displaying computerized scenarios, officers can speak directly to the screen and interact with the people on it.

“You have a gun that’s computerized,” Potter explained. “It’s the exact same model of gun that the police use.”

Officers can also practice using other measures, such as pepper spray and tasers.

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Potter had the opportunity to try out the simulator during a recent demonstration.

“First time I did it, I did a great job,” she said. “Second time, I got killed. The third time, I got the kid killed that I was supposed to be protecting.

“It’s instantaneous stuff.”

Though Greensboro police officers are often put into situations where they’re forced to draw their weapon, it’s extremely rare for them to use it.

Between 2015 and 2019, officers used force — which also includes tasers and pepper spray — on an average of .09% of calls each year. That’s about three to four incidents out of about 4,000 calls for help each week, according to department data.

The scenarios, which often play out in under a minute’s time, force officers to make split decisions.

Upon completion, trainees go through a debriefing.

Should they have used a taser instead of their gun? Did they shoot too soon? Too late?

In a time when the actions of police are highly scrutinized, proper training could make all the difference.

According to Potter, it was at the request of Chief Brian James that the foundation sought to raise money for the simulator.

“When Brian James came onto the scene, we sat down with him and asked him for his wish list,” Potter said.

Since 2012, the Greensboro Police Foundation, composed of community members, has raised money for the department. Their first major project was acquiring body-worn cameras for officers.

For Potter and the Greensboro Police Foundation, the reason to fund new equipment like the training simulator is simple: “We just want to see our community thrive and be a safe place to live.”

Contact Jamie Biggs at 336-373-4476 and follow @JamieBiggsNR on Twitter.


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