SAN ANTONIO – Real-life scenarios seen all too often in the United States were recreated on a virtual reality walk to help train Mexican law enforcement officers in active shooter situations.
The virtual reality on the wall showed scenarios eerily reminiscent of the mass shootings at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at the school in Parkland, Florida.
“We tried to pick some scenarios in our system that might be something that they’ve heard of before,” said Jim McGregor, an instructor at Alamo Area Council of Governments' Regional Law Enforcement Academy.
Since mass shootings in the U.S. also have been big news across the border, 10 public security officials from across Mexico said they were very familiar with what’s occurred.
Even though Mexico hasn’t seen concentrated killings, frequent violence plagues many parts of the country.
“Acts of violence can occur at any moment, anywhere,” said one official.
Another said what he saw often happens on the streets.
“Violence is the same all over the world. It’s just the source of the violence may be different," McGregor said.
The officials said the realistic sights and sounds that surrounded them was so stressful they could sense the victims’ panic, as well as feeling their own adrenaline as they were taken past the “injured and dead” actors on the ground, then confronting the shooter.
One even said, “It’s the closest you can get to (being in a) shooting.”
The question they asked themselves is one that any law enforcement officer asks, “Shoot, don’t shoot?”
Confronted by virtual victims and shooters, an official holding a practice weapon said it helped him learn how to respond “when you have a real situation."
Since the military is at the forefront of Mexico’s drug war, McGregor said state and local law enforcement doesn’t always have the same resources.
“We try to teach them ways to train their officers without having to use the latest and greatest technologies," he said.
The weeklong training session is one of several yearly binational exchange programs made possible by Global Ties U.S., a nonprofit network based in Washington, D.C., as part of the Merida Initiative, a partnership between the U.S. and Mexico to fight transnational criminal organizations.
McGregor said the Regional Law Enforcement Academy’s goal is to help “improve law enforcement all around the world.”
"We are a profession without borders," he said.