As White House immigration policies thrust U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) into a higher-profile role at airports and the southern border, the agency is giving NBC 4 New York an exclusive look inside a high-tech facility that will train thousands of agents and officers this year.
"What we teach here is, I would say, the most important in all of law enforcement,” said Chris Lein, acting deputy director of the Advanced Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. "CBP officers and agents have one of the most dangerous jobs in the entire world."
NBC 4 New York found there's no talk of politics at the training center, only the mission. This year, that will mean training more than 6,000 officers and agents -- many from other law enforcement agencies -- in everything from use of force to trade enforcement.
"We start with law and policy to make sure they have a solid foundation," said Lein. “We want to keep our officers safe and agents safe but we also want to make sure that we protect the public and use our authority in the way it was intended to be.”
While lessons start in the classroom and include conventional training exercises like how to physically subdue a suspect, officers and agents can also drill in a mock, full-size border crossing and an airport terminal complete with a working luggage carousel.
"The more immersion it is the better education process you're going to get out of it," said Assistant Director Pete Lobur.
To make that happen, CBP has also built a state-of-the-art use of force simulator. It allows trainees to experience more than 120 virtual reality scenarios -- from a subway meltdown to a terrorist ambush -- that test their skills.
New scenarios can also be created in the simulator as the world changes.
"If we know we have a problem out there and it's in a particular area, this system gives is the ability to create that problem in that area in a simulated environment," said Lobur. "Now our agents can work and train for it before they experience it in real life."