Livermore police get simulator to help with deescalation

The Livermore Police Department recently added a simulator to help train its entire force.

It's designed to teach officers deescalation.

Police officials say it's unusual for a smaller department such as theirs to have this tool, but they hope it will save lives.

The department showed off its new tool in training officers how to deescalate when they respond to calls such as dealing with the homeless. 

The goal is to learn how to deescalate tense situations in an effort to protect the community and police officers.

The department is using VirTra, a virtual reality training simulator that is interactive. 

It gives officers an opportunity to learn how make split-second decisions.

The program measures reaction times to perceived threats when use of force is deployed.

"This allows repetitions far beyond what you can do with people setting up a scenario many, many times, virtual with a click of a button," said Sgt. Tim Lendman.

Livermore police had more than 56,000 police contacts last year. Of those, 35 resulted in use of force. Twenty six of them were takedowns. 

The last police shooting was January 2020 and the person shot survived.

"We can do this without tracking down locations, bring in role players, so this allows us to increase our training up to 80, 100 hours more a year," said Lt. Steve Goard. 

Police said VirTra offered thousands of scenarios, including interactions with a person with mental health issues or special needs such as autism.

It's a balancing act between what police can do legally and keep everyone safe.     

The department said VirTra is used by large law enforcement agencies such as the Los Angeles Police Department, but that Liver,pre police needs to go above and beyond in serving the community.

"There is a societal demand for more training in law enforcement," said Goard. "We can go from a call about a stolen vehicle the next call could be someone in mental crisis wanting to end their life or it could be a school shooter and we have to go from each."  

The department said VirTra costs $240,000 which it described as an investment in saving lives.

The goal is to have all officers undergo simulation training. 

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU