Axon’s Vision for Police Training
Controversy surrounding interactions between the police and the public in recent years has brought to the forefront questions about the effectiveness of traditional methods of police training. Now is the time for law enforcement entities and partners to examine their training protocols and look for innovative solutions that elevate training opportunities in law enforcement.
As a partner to law enforcement, Axon continues to evolve its vision for better police training—because basic knowledge and skills aren’t enough.
“We want to get away from the ‘checkbox training’ that law enforcement and Axon have done historically,” says Andy Wrenn, Axon’s head of Training. “We want to build a future in which training produces a higher-performing officer and is focused on mutually beneficial outcomes for both law enforcement and the public.”
An outside-the-box training approach
Training must be easy to implement, which is why all of Axon’s police officer training courses are available in Axon Academy. That gives agencies a single portal for accessing training content, including TASER Training, web-based training that supports VR modules, body-worn camera certification and more. Within Axon Academy, agencies will be able to access all of their public safety training programs in one place, and track progress and completion statistics.
“Expanded e-learning options also allow officers to complete Axon product training individually on their own schedule,” says Melanie Lowenberg, Axon’s Director of e-Learning. “That way, they can get the nomenclature and functionality lessons out of the way so when they go to their in-person TASER Training, for example, they can focus on tactics and building their critical-thinking skills.”
Axon knows sharing knowledge across agencies is invaluable. That’s why Axon created the TASER Instructor Network, a safe and secure closed community where instructors can get feedback and support from their peers. It’s a place where instructors can ask questions, discuss relevant topics and request suggestions to help them solve real-time challenges.
“The activity we’ve seen has been a really good indicator that officers were craving something like this,” Wrenn says. “They’re asking questions, they’re sharing best practices in a way that they can connect beyond their agency. It’s pretty awesome.”
In turn, Axon leverages the expertise of this cadre of training experts when it develops new training content, from reviewing courses to providing feedback on VR scripts.
Immersive VR Police Training
The third pillar of Axon’s new training philosophy is immersive learning. As scrutiny surrounding law enforcement continues to intensify, the need for agencies to have the ability to conduct training that’s both hands-on and low risk has become increasingly clear. Axon’s VR training is fully immersive and comprised of two offerings: Community Engagement Training, which introduces key learning objectives and de-escalation tactics, and Simulator Training, which allows trainees to practice and refine their skills in dynamic situations, using real tools like TASER energy weapons or training firearms.
“We wanted to focus on community-based needs and provide experiences for officers that would give them new perspectives,” Wrenn says. “So, if you go through our autism Community Engagement training, for instance, you’ll see how things like lights and sirens can negatively affect a situation, and you can start approaching situations differently. We’ve created a way for officers to really participate in their learning, rather than have information just come at them.”
Because it’s self-contained in a VR headset, agencies can offer training with greater frequency and little to no prep work. That means small agencies will have access to all the same training that larger agencies do.
“The cool thing about VR is it doesn’t matter what agency you’re with,” Wrenn says. “All it takes is putting on a headset, and you get the same learning outcomes whether you’re with LAPD or a five-person agency in South Louisiana.”
What’s to come
The Axon Training team sees VR as the future of law enforcement training, and so this year, Axon is focused on building its library of VR training content. In fact, Axon has committed to producing at least one new Community Engagement VR training module per month in 2021 and one new Simulator Training every other month once it’s released.
To accompany the Simulator Training, Axon is developing a virtual TASER range, which is a big undertaking — the VR experience needs to be incredibly rich in order to replace the real experience.
“We’re working on ways to use VR to shorten on-site TASER training to where officers can do their VR-based pre-learning, and then show up and get right to drills and scenarios and that’s it,” Wrenn says. “Our goal is to make training more efficient.”
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