As more and more communities call for police reform, there’s no doubt major changes are on the way within law enforcement. Axon’s virtual reality (VR) training offers agencies a proactive option to effect change.
“The fact is, the community wants better law enforcement. State, local and federal policymakers want better law enforcement. And sheriffs and police chiefs want to provide better law enforcement. And so we asked ourselves, ‘What are we doing to help make that happen? What can we do to satisfy the needs of all three of these groups?’” says Antoine Lane, Axon director of policy and strategic initiatives. “Our answer was training.”
Lane, a former lieutenant and 30-year veteran of the Austin Police Department, led academy and remedial training during his time at the agency. His experience, coupled with a master’s degree in Training and Professional Development, help guide the development of Axon’s VR Training program.
Building trust through training
Police officers go through a substantial amount of training in the academy. But most of it is centered on safety.
“Much of what you’ll see in training simulations are variations of shoot/don’t shoot scenarios,” says Robert Murphy, Axon’s senior director of virtual reality. “It’s important, for sure, but many of the calls officers go to — most of them, in fact — don’t require any use of force.”
That’s why Axon believes, in addition to officer safety training, there must be a focus on training aimed at improving civilian interactions.
“We believe the onus is on police to rebuild the fractured relationship between cops and communities. But they don’t need to do it alone,” Lane says. “We’re ready to help. Axon can be the bridge between stakeholders because our products are often called upon to capture the truth — with our body-worn cameras and such — and truth is going to be the essential ingredient needed for rebuilding these fractured relationships. I think that gives us an excellent opportunity for spearheading the dialogue that helps heal our society.”
Axon VR Training includes all the hardware and programming needed to train officers on the types of calls they most frequently encounter — and in a format that heightens senses and introduces stressors that are hard to replicate outside of real-world scenarios. Axon VR Training is fully immersive, with videos that allow users to view content in all directions.
The training system is contained in a wireless VR headset, which means training can take place nearly anywhere. Instead of having to send officers to a dedicated training space, they can run through a scenario or two in the briefing room if they choose.
Using VR to enhance the humanities
Because up to 10% of police interactions and half of all police shootings involve individuals who have mental illnesses, Axon created training modules to help build officers’ critical thinking skills when responding to individuals who may be in crisis, giving them the best opportunity for a successful outcome.
“A lot of what we’re focusing on in our scenarios addresses the humanities in policing and training officers how best to respond and act on those,” Murphy says. “It’s about identifying what’s going on and de-escalating a situation through words and body language. Not only what you say but how you say it. Those scenarios are more what police do on a daily basis.”
Axon’s current training modules include schizophrenia, autism and suicidal ideation. Modules that will be released in the coming months include peer intervention, officer post-traumatic stress injury, hard of hearing, Alzheimer’s/dementia and community post-traumatic stress injury. New modules will be released on an ongoing, monthly basis, giving agencies a library of training content to tap into.
When technology meets training
Axon brings its devices and apps together to create training programs that help law enforcement professionals succeed in the field. Contact Axon to learn more.