SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Earlier this month Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed off on Iowa police reforms. The bill limits the use of chokeholds by officers and makes de-escalation training a priority. This is something the Sioux City Police Department (SCPD) said it’s equipped to deal with.
Officers are trained on a system called Virtra, a simulator that looks like a lot like a giant video game. Officers walk right into a variety of scenarios and use the tools they’ve learned to help resolve a situation.
Sioux City Police officers say communication is key when approaching a situation.
“Try to talk to them, see what the matter is, see how we can help them in any way. Whether that be medical or psychological or anything we can help them out with,” said SCPD Officer Paul Yaneff.
Officers are trained on when to use pepper spray or a taser if talking doesn’t work. They also learn when a gun might become necessary.
“At no time are we going into a situation hoping to use force. That’s not why we got into this job. We make sure that we help people, and make sure we get to the best situation,” said Yaneff.
“We’re not immediately pulling our taser or our gun unless there is an active threat, but we want to effectively communicate so that we don’t have to use those tools,” said Sgt. Steve Ten Napel with the Sioux City Police Department.
To add some shock value to the scenario, officers have a device attached to their hip called the threat fire device.
“It’s not there to punish the officer, but it’s there, one, to add realism to the situation but also to simulate some type of successful attack that the role player or simulation might have on them,” said Napel.
Once an officer completes a scenario, Napel evaluates their performance.
“I want to ask them questions about the suspect’s behavior. I want to ask them what their actions were and, more importantly, why did they respond the way they did to the scenario,” said Napel.
The virtual system is fairly new to the department. The system has only been available for two years. Officers are required to go through the training at least once a year.