OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — In a room on the lower level of the Oshkosh Police Department is a device that takes officers inside a screen.
Over the last six months, the department has been using a virtual reality simulator to train its police force.
"The value of it is being able to create - in a virtual reality environment - virtually any scenario, any environment, any event that we encounter on the street," said Sgt. Todd Wrage, Oshkosh Police Department professional development.
Situations can include active threats, riots, building searches and traffic stops. An instructor controls the real-life scenarios, changing the weather, threat level and reaction of people they're responding to.
It's all done in a safe environment where responses can be tested and evaluated.
"It's not just for cadets. It's not just for our patrol officers or our detectives. It's for everybody," Wrage said. "We used it this spring for taser and user re-certification during our in-service groups. So we had every officer go through and encounter the threat level that would demand deployment of a taser."
Police demonstrated the simulator Tuesday with the private donors who provided the $62,000 needed for the simulator, along with members of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, which helped secure the funding.
"It was amazing being in the experience of how police get trained. It was really cool," said Bill Wyman, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation president & CEO. "It was just like it was real."
We also suited up. Our scenario was on a rooftop in the rain, where an intoxicated man came at us with a knife.
It's the type of situation police need to be prepared for.
"We can do things in here that they're going to encounter out on the street," Wrage said. "Have them encounter it in a VR world first, so they get the practice, they get the training, they get the repetition, so the first time they do it on the street isn't the first time they've done it."
The virtual reality simulator isn't replacing any other training OPD does. Wrage said it's simply an additional tool on the belt.