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GCSO first agency to utilize virtual training program

Operator XR allows deputies to virtually train in actual mapped locations

August 25, 2023

An expansive virtual reality program is coming to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office that allows deputies to train in realistic scenarios featuring actual layouts of local facilities and locations. The Operator XR virtual reality (VR) system is a portable training tool that provides realistic experiences and operates entirely offline, allowing use anywhere it’s needed.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario told the Board of County Commissioners that the VR training applies to a wide range of scenarios from jail duties all the way through firearms and tactical uses.

“The guys who run this have been focusing on the military and now they want to offer it to civilian officers,” he explained. “To me, this is the most awesome technology out there. It provides any type of scenario you like, thousands of them, from basic contacts and de-escalation to full-blown tactical operations.”

The system utilizes a VR headset through which an instructor feeds varied scenarios for the trainee to experience. Up to eight users can participate in a program at the same time to train as a team, and special sensors are applied to the officer’s unloaded firearms, allowing them to train with familiar weapons they use daily.

Vallario told the board that Operator XR allows the sheriff’s office to map out an area, such as a local school, and train within the virtual confines to gain a greater understanding of the actual layout. He added that the VR system will augment existing sheriff’s deputy training and not replace real-world instruction.

“This isn’t going to replace going out to the range and shooting,” Vallario said. “We still have to do that and qualify. We still have to conduct live ammunition training, but this is the next platform, and what’s nice is it’s safe, you can review your performance, and we don’t have to be physically on location. We can do it again and again. … Operator XR is excited about us doing this. We’ll be the first law enforcement agency in the country to have this platform.”

Existing capital funds are being reallocated to cover the initial $50,000 cost of the program. The contract is for one year, with the option for two additional years. The sole source contract to Operator XR was approved by the board unanimously, 3-0.