Costa Rica Receives Virtual Shooting Ranges from the United States
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo August 18, 2017The U.S. Department of State donated six virtual shooting ranges to the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security (MSP, per its Spanish acronym). The technology will contribute to the training and professional development of the various public security bodies for the improvement of their emergency response capability. The donation, valued at almost $800,000, was made by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs through the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, as part of the cooperation agreements between the two countries. The new equipment was presented to Costa Rica on July 7th at a ceremony at the National Police Academy in San José. The gathering was attended by Costa Rican Minister of Public Security Gustavo Mata, and the then U.S. ambassador, Stafford Fitzgerald Haney. “By [the third week of August] at the latest, we will begin officially training the first units,” Commissioner Erick Lacayo Rojas, the director of the Costa Rican National Police Academy, told Diálogo. “With this virtual system we will improve our systems for officer education, training, and specialization,” he said. “We don’t intend for this to replace firearms practice. Nevertheless, the technology will help improve the instruction of officers in stressful and delicate situations, with the goal of improving their response capacity.” Cutting edge technology Every virtual simulator includes software and three screens that recreate various 180-degree scenarios. It allows for the inclusion of outdoor conditions such as lighting, the wind, weather, distance, physical spaces, and ammunition trajectory. The personnel doing the security work will put operational protocols into practice, and reinforce their legal knowledge as well as their knowledge on the use of force and of human rights, which is required when using tools employed by police and military agencies throughout the world. “This type of technology will give them the opportunity to not only fire at different distances but also know when they don’t have to fire,” Minister Mata stated. “Using a firearm is indispensable for a police officer.” The simulation systems will provide the instructor with a detailed report on the performance of the police officer, including the number of shots fired and response time. Each trainee will also learn how they react when confronted with a dangerous situation or a criminal act. The U.S. government support will also include training on the use of the virtual shooting ranges for 10 representatives from each of the police departments comprising MSP. Personnel from the National Police Academy, the Police Force, the Air Surveillance Service, the National Coast Guard Service, the Border Police, and the Correctional Officer Force will serve as certified instructors for other officers in their respective institutions. New scenarios will also be designed relating to criminal activity facing the country, such as clandestine airstrip use, gender violence, assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, kidnapping, and carjacking. Better preparation at a lower cost The donation will contribute to the reduction of costs in the teaching and evaluation of officers. “It is easier to create a virtual reality prototype, in which different Police Force teams can participate than to create a realistic scenario. That is more costly for the training process,” Luis Álvarez, director of Álvarez Integrated Systems, a security training company collaborating with the Costa Rican MSP, told Diálogo. “The use of virtual shooting ranges results in high costs savings. In Costa Rica, a 50-round box of nine-millimeter ammunition costs around $25,” Álvarez said. “In a virtual system, 50 shots can be fired in less than 10 minutes. In a real shooting range, you need to supply the ammunition on a regular basis.” “With one dollar they can acquire the resources to operate the virtual simulator and use it 500 times,” Commissioner Lacayo said. “This way we can integrate real practice while staying under budget, and get better results in real-time decision making.” The V-180 simulator is more valuable for training than a firearms simulator with only one screen. The realistic training platform produces better decision-making in life-or-death situations, saving the lives of civilians and officers, according to information from Virtra, the company responsible for maintaining the shooting ranges. “We should use the tool in a logical, academic manner; we have had an important preview of its implementation, how evaluations will be done, and how we’ll measure the impact of our scenarios,” Commissioner Lacayo stated. “It’s not just about coming to the shooting range and firing. The trainees must go through an academic and practical training process. The more training the better the teacher,” Álvarez added. According to MSP, in addition to the six virtual shooting ranges, other equipment is scheduled to come from the U.S. government. The equipment that will arrive in November includes two 110-foot vessels, two Sky Troop airplanes, three helicopters and three tactical vehicles. “All this equipment will improve the skills, capacities, and the professionalism of our officers who look after the security of this country, day in and day out,” concluded Minister Mata.