Ventura County Sheriff's Department tries new approach with use-of-force simulator

In the simulator, dozens of potentially violent scenarios unfold and show how deputies have to make split-second decisions.
VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. (KABC) -- It's not unusual for law enforcement agencies to have reporters run through use-of-force simulators to see what officers experience on the job. But when the Ventura County Sheriff's Department set up its latest media simulator event, the invite list included a new set of participants: The local NAACP.

"I walked out tired," said Regina Hatcher-Crawford, the president of the Ventura County chapter of the NAACP after running through three scenarios in the Force Options Simulator at the Ventura County Criminal Justice Training Center in Camarillo.

"My heart was beating, I was sweating," Hatcher -Crawford told Eyewitness News. "At one point I was reaching for the gun because I was trying to figure out how to stop the situation."

Deputy C.J. Lombardi, the simulator instructor, says everyone shares those reactions when faced with a potentially-deadly confrontation.

"You feel the stressors of being on a call and talking with someone in public or talking with someone who's in crisis or talking with somebody who's a potential suspect," he explained.

In the simulator, dozens of potentially violent scenarios unfold and show how deputies have to make split-second decisions. Lombardi says it's a valuable training tool that keeps officers mentally prepared.

"When they do become confronted with one of these situations, they've already seen it, they have a mental map in their mind as to what they might do so they can react properly," said Lombardi.

In light of the global outcry surrounding police brutality, Hatcher -Crawford thought it help improve relations to see the world through a law enforcement prism. She just wishes there was a reverse simulator available to show officers what its like to be a minority on the other end of a police call.

"We were able to experience (what police go through), we also hope that officers can understand our experience."

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