HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wednesday the Hillsborough Police Department demonstrated a new training technique for all its officers. They demonstrated their new virtual simulator to members of the council and media partners.

The price tag on the training equipment, software and annual maintenance costs total about $60,000, a Hillsborough spokesperson said.

What the training does is put officers in real-life scenarios such as bank robberies, shootings and suicidal jumps while allowing instructors to see how the officer would respond.

“This is a virtual training simulator which allows us to do de-escalation, as well as the use of force or response to resist training,” Sgt. William Parker of the Hillsborough Police Department said.

The new training technique is an idea they got from other law enforcement agencies across the country. 

The equipment, purchased in October, is a valuable tool for training officers without the need for extensive training space. This training puts officers in locations they may have not been able to train in before.

Officer Juan Duran was the first participant to enter this virtual reality on Wednesday and said the experience is unlike any training he’s done before.

“It still feels realistic to a point. Obviously, in the back of my head I know it’s not real. It still feels like I’m training,” officer Duran said.

During his training simulation he was handling a suicidal jumper, a situation he has been in before.

“There’s always going to be a difference between virtual reality and reality. The biggest difference is I know that I’m safe here. In reality, you never know when you’re safe,” Officer Duran said.

Thanks to a unanimous vote from the town’s commissioners, the police department was able to receive the funds to build this training simulator. It’s a decision commissioner Kathleen Ferguson said was easy to make.

“I could physically feel the tension,” she said. “We have to have our officers prepared. It is the most stressful job, as any first responder is, and without preparation, you walk into a situation and bad things could happen very quickly.”

So far at least 18 to 20 officers have gone through the training. Sergeant Parker said their goal is to bring in officers every month for reoccurring training.  

Unlike other law enforcement agencies in the triangle, Hillsborough Police said they are pretty lucky not to have any shortages but this training is a tool they could use to recruit future officers.