Empathy is a critical tool for conflict resolution, and thus public safety. In recent years, VR has established itself as a powerful tool for empathy development. Axon is committed to creating world-class Virtual Reality (VR) training for our law enforcement partners. Training that enhances empathy and understanding to better prepare officers for successful community engagement and outcomes.
Virtual reality simulations leave emotional imprints on users. VR allows a person to literally stand in someone else’s shoes — to see what they see, hear what they hear, and feel what they feel. The inner dialogue, the anxiety, the despair. Experiencing a new perspective results in long-lasting learning for first responders and officers who encounter citizens with a wide variety of challenges on a daily basis. VR allows officers to gain experience responding to situations they may not be fully equipped to handle. Until now.
Axon’s VR training modules provide real-world scenarios that elicit real-world reactions, like increased blood pressure and time-sensitive decision making. Through this training, officers gain confidence in responding to calls for service with new insight, awareness and empathy.
Officers Deserve Better Training on Commonly Encountered Characteristics
When it comes to police training, the traditional “shoot or don’t-shoot” simulations miss the mark. The percentage of civilian interactions resulting in shots fired by officers is exceptionally low, so the "shoot or don't-shoot" approach doesn't equip officers with the day-to-day tools required for the vast majority of community encounters. Axon seeks to create an efficient, modern approach to everyday policing — comprehensive VR offerings to train for everything else.
Consider these diverse communities we expect our officers to serve:
- Suicide & Depression. Depression affects 25% of adults in U.S. and over 130 die by suicide each day.
- Anxiety. Affects 18% of adults and, while treatable, only 37% receive treatment.
- Alzheimer’s & Dementia. Millions afflicted nationwide.
- Autism. Wide spectrum and rapid increase in prevalence, as 1 in 54 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
That’s a tall order, and it’s why four of our initial VR modules address empathetic de-escalation techniques in situations relating to Suicide, Autism, Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s. Is the person really disobeying commands or is he unable to hear, understand or respond in typical fashion? Can stimuli be reduced and the subject engaged? The ability to recognize signs and symptoms and employ appropriate communication strategies for the situation at hand can help everybody get home safely. But such skills require training we can’t expect officers to be effective without.
Axon’s VR Library Is Rapidly Expanding
We’ve already made great strides in enhancing awareness through the release of powerful VR empathy training modules, but much more is needed to create positive change in law enforcement for better community relations and outcomes. To that end, Axon continues to expand our VR offerings. Coming soon:
- Domestic Violence
- Substance Use Disorder
- Limited English Proficiency
- Profound Agitation
- Post Traumatic Stress Injury
- Deaf Community
- Officer Suicide Awareness
- Peer Intervention
Each training module is vetted by subject matter experts and agency and community partners. This includes clinicians, crisis intervention specialists, and mental health counselors to ensure each virtual interaction depicts real-life circumstances, recommends best practices, and provides accurate resources.
Our ever-changing world is complex with crises occurring every day in our communities. That’s why Axon’s mission to obsolete the bullet and develop technologies with profound societal impact is so important. We are doing all we can to prepare our nation's first responders and law enforcement professionals for successful community engagement through relevant and impactful VR training topics for all experience levels. Empathy is at the heart of this training, as it should be, with an emphasis on de-escalation techniques.