ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) – The Albemarle County Police Department says its the first in Virginia to use virtual reality to help train its officers.
The Apex Virtual Reality set allows them to practice scenarios they might find out in the field.
So far, the officers can practice aim on a virtual firing range, explore dark alleys with a flashlight, and play out de-escalation scenarios.
In these de-escalation scenarios, one officer controls the suspect, while two others play out the scenario.
“We can go through as many times as we want, we can move it to a different location. We can have officers training for five minutes or 30 minutes like us,” Lt. Tripp Martin said. “It just gives us a little bit of an edge on training as far as putting us in real life scenarios in a safe environment. And we’re able to provide feedback to the officers on how they respond”
The aim is to get officers better at running through all types of situations they may encounter out on the field, while in a safe and versatile environment.
“With the department we’ve probably put around 25 to 30 officers through the simulator at this point,” Lt. Martin said.
The ACPD says learning to aim and when to fire is only part of it.
“If it’s a mental health victim that’s going through something, we can, based on how they’re doing it, change the situation according to those actions, the dispatcher or the officer is able to control that. We can do a wide variety of different scenarios and it doesn’t always end with a weapon being drawn,” Lt. Martin said.
The department says the $70,000 virtual reality set will pay for itself.
“Now that we have it, our updates and our subscriptions are free, so we’re able to use it and train whenever we want. We don’t have to pay for off site training. We don’t have to pay for extra ammunition,” Lt. Martin said.
So far, only the firearms team has practiced with the Apex reality set, but the department says it plans to run all of its teams through the training process.
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