Durham PD trains to de-escalate dangerous situations

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Durham police train with a new simulator designed to de-escalate dangerous situations (WTVD)

One way Durham Police want to improve community policing is through training officers on de-escalation. Friday, DPD unveiled a new virtual tool.

It's a simulator that creates mock virtual encounters between real officers and suspected criminals. The fake exchange can be intense and challenging.

Approximately 216 patrol officers will train each year on the $60,000 technology.

The updated software is funded by assets taken from criminals and is replacing DPD's old simulator.

This new tool creates real-life scenarios where the officer is forced to make split-second decisions in order to calm-down a dangerous situation.

"If they are going to make a mistake, we would rather they make a mistake in training than make it out here on the field," says Deputy Chief Anthony Marsh, Sr.

After the scenario, officers will be evaluated on their approach to the situation and if they followed DPD's polices and state laws.

Friday, journalists in the Triangle were invited to DPD headquarters to test the new equipment.

ABC 11 Assignment Manager AnnMarie Breen took one for the team. Breen fired eight shots in four seconds, still missing an active shooter.

Breen's outcome proves just how difficult policing under pressure can be. The new simulator does not include scenarios involving racial sensitivities. DPD says the system is designed to train officers in using proper procedures for all people.

Aiding the effort to de-escalate situations, Durham police officers are now wearing new body cameras in East Durham, which will be distributed to other officers in phases. Police say body cams have a limited effectiveness, though.

"In a close struggle with a person, (the camera) gets knocked off. Sometimes it gets switched off, sometimes it gets broken," Marsh explained. "In a shooting situation, sometimes the hands and arms actually obscure the view of the camera."

Police say the sound captured on the body cams will be critical in situations where the video is of poor quality.

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