Simulator prepares Harford Co. deputies for active shooters, other situations

Posted at 11:29 AM, Oct 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-11 18:50:03-04

There’s a new $350,000 training simulator for sheriff’s deputies in Harford County. It’s putting deputies in real world scenarios to prepare for what they’d face on the job.


Stepping inside the world of a sheriff’s deputy has never been more real, more advanced, or more intense.


“The public doesn’t want excuses. The public wants mission success and that’s what we have to mandate here. You know, it all starts with training. Not just range training, but stress and calculation training,” Deputy 1st Class Tom Wehrle, with the sheriff’s office, said.


Wehrle is one of six operators for the sheriff’s office’s new virtual simulator – VIRTRA.


A 360 degree virtual training simulator that puts you in high pressure situations – forcing you to draw a “weapon” – a standard issue Glock handgun filled with a CO2 canister.


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“We live in a 3D world. Things are going to happen all around you. A lot of the simulators are just right in front of you and it’s going to happen on that screen. That’s not realistic training because as you saw in several of the scenarios, you better know what’s happening behind you,” Sheriff Jeff Gahler said.


It’s an intensity that shows real world experiences – a traffic stop, a shooter on the loose inside a movie theater and in a school.


Sheriff Gahler says it’s a glimpse of the world and threats that are constantly around.


“We want people to be thinking, not only are they protecting themselves, but why. And you have to do it, as you saw in these scenarios, you have to do it in an instant,” he said.


Quick decisions that can mean life or death and the safety of hundreds.


“…that’s what we want to do with those officers – create that level of stress that they’re not used to operating in their environment and when they go up here, they can make better decisions,” Wehrle said.


The money used to pay for the simulator came from seized cash from the sheriff’s office’s drug task force. All 300 deputies in the department now have to go through the simulator.