It’s hard to imagine a better cautionary tale about police use of force than that of James Peters, a former Scottsdale police officer who shot and killed six people between 2002 and 2012. But instead of being taught to fresh-faced academy students as an example of what not to do, Peters himself is teaching police departments how and when to use their guns.
The Arizona blog Down and Drought reports that Peters now works as “Regional Director of International Business Development and Law Enforcement SME/Trainer” for VirTra Systems, manufacturers of virtual-reality equipment used by over 200 global law enforcement agencies to train officers on use of force. Fortunately for Americans, Peters’ role with the company appears to be limited to assisting police departments overseas.
Peters was never found criminally at fault for a shooting, but in 2012, Scottsdale paid a $4.25 million settlement to the family of John Loxas, who Peters shot and killed while Loxas was carrying his nine-month-old grandson and had his back turned. The officer was a responding to a call alleging that Loxas had threatened a neighbor with a handgun, and later said that he fired because he saw a black object that might have been a gun in Loxas’s pocket. It turned out to be a cell phone.
VirTra’s flagship product, the V-300, resembles a big and expensive human-centric version of Big Buck Hunter. Officers stand in the center of five video screens and are placed in a simulation of a potentially dangerous situation. If they fail to fire upon the threat quickly enough, they receive an electric to simulate a wound. “VirTra’s pain compliance training operates on the theory that officers who hesitate to take action, die,” writes Down and Drought, effectively training them to shoot first and ask questions later.
As Down and Drought reports, Peters has a long history of misconduct at the Scottsdale Police Department, including at least one incident in which he was reprimanded for unsafe use of his gun. His LinkedIn profile lists responsibilities at VirTra including conducting product demonstrations and “customer training on the use of VirTra products.”
If VirTra’s overseas law enforcement clients want to learn what it’s really like to shoot at someone, they can take comfort in knowing they’ll be working with an ex-cop who has unparalleled experience with the subject.