BUFFALO -- The Wright County Sheriff's Office has a new tool to help them train in a safer environment while using fewer resources.

The sheriff's office now has a Laser Shot Training Simulator. Sergeant Brian Johnson says they got the simulator about a year ago and have since been working on integrating it into deputies' training schedules. The simulator has about 200 virtual scenarios that test deputies on how to respond to different situations. Johnson says deputies, under the guidance of a training instructor, use the simulator as a safe form of training.

"What this [the Laser Shot Training Simulator] does is allows our deputies to get is a very realistic training scenario and actually be able to interact to a point with the program. It is pre-recorded but we are able to control some of the actions of the actors on the screen."

Johnson says the simulator is designed to put deputies in a position where they have to think and act fast, just like in real life.

"It allows our deputies to make decisions based on the level of force, what they are going to use. It could be as low as verbal commands or as high as deadly force and then our alternate force options in between which could be a taser, pepper spray or hands-on, handcuffing."

In the past, the sheriff's office has used force-on-force training. Johnson says it's the same type of training as the simulator except instead of having it be a virtual training it is done in the real world, with live role players.  In that type of training, officers typically use paintball guns or airsoft guns. He says more resources and time would go into the force-on-force training compared to the simulator.

"When we're doing force-on-force with live trainers, we are limited to the area we are using, time of day and what we have. This [the simulator] allows us to do traffic stops, active shooter and mental health. We have options to do training with our jail staff and court staff scenarios in a courthouse. Where we obviously couldn't do that if we were in one room. This gives us the opportunity to do a broad training in a short period of time."

Although the force-on-force does use more resources, the simulator hasn't replaced it. Johnson says the sheriff's office uses a combination of the two to train.

The cost of the simulator was about $25,000-$30,000, Johnson says it was funded through the agency's training budget.

To see the simulator in action check out the above video.

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