Okla. agency opens new police training center, planned as regional hub
Officials said the center's 300-degree, five-screen VirTra training simulator, which has around 300 scenarios, is the first of its kind in Oklahoma
By Kelci McKendrick
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. — The doors to Enid Police Department's new training center have officially opened.
Police officials said the center's 300-degree, five-screen VirTra training simulator, which has around 300 scenarios, is the first of its kind in Oklahoma.
Enid Police Chief Bryan Skaggs said the "state-of-the-art" facility, which has a classroom that can seat 50 people and the virtual shooting simulation system, is helping EPD accomplish a goal to become the main regional training center for area law enforcement.
"I think we're well on our way to that," Skaggs said.
The training center was first proposed to Enid City Commissioners in February 2020, and construction at 400 W. State, across from the police department, began last year around early April. The center sits on what used to be the city of Enid's skate park.
EPD Lt. Nick John, of the department's training division, said the process of moving into and using the building started three months ago.
"We've been hosting classes here at the training center — not just for us, but for other agencies throughout Northwest Oklahoma," John said. "Like Chief Skaggs mentioned, we want to make good training available to all agencies in this area, without them having to drive across the state."
Capt. Warren Wilson, over EPD's training division, said the department can now host two classes at the same time — one inside the training center and one inside the station. The two classrooms can be used for police academies' initial Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) certification and for continuing education and training for seasoned officers.
The simulator gives officers the opportunity to practice using multiple skills such as communication, de-escalation and marksmanship at the same time in possible tense situations, Wilson said.
"The ultimate keys to success in law enforcement is to perform these skills at a high level while making the correct decisions in rapidly unfolding, complex situations," Wilson said. "This type of reality-based training integrates all of those skills and inoculates the officer to stress."
John said instructors operating the computer are able to select different options in scenarios based on what officers do and say in each one.
"If the officer has done a great job of communicating, I can make the person in the simulation comply and give up," John said. "If the officer is not doing a great job at communicating, I can make that person in the simulation become hostile."
Wilson said officers are able to run through scenarios multiple times, if needed, until they get particular tactics down correctly.
"This allows us to do that in a much more realistic environment," Wilson said. "We never want them to end on a bad outcome. Even though some of these outcomes are incredibly difficult, ... we want them to get as good as they possibly can."
Several city officials such as Mayor George Pankonin and City Commissioner Derwin Norwood went through the simulator on Wednesday.
Pankonin said he thought the simulator is a great tool for law enforcement to have, and Norwood said it was "well-worth the money spent."
"I didn't know what to expect, but once we got in there, it was amazing," Norwood said. "There was more to it than what I thought. I didn't know you'd have that real life feeling, when your body began to react to it. ... I learned a few things from just being in there."
Community members will have the chance to tour the training center during an open house event from 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 4.
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