LANCASTER COUNTY, Dad. (WHTM) — Lancaster County police are adding a new training tool to their arsenal: virtual reality. In August, the first group of agents tried out the new technology.
This is brand new to the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department, who say VR lets them study how officers respond to different situations — in a safe environment.
Sergeant David Burdis introduced the first few officers to the new tool, calling it “the future of training.”
Agent Alexandria Hahn has been with the police for seven years. She tried out the new training tool on Tuesday, the first time she used VR.
“It’s very realistic, it’s very similar to how you deal with everything on the street,” she said.
The system offers multiple scenarios, such as a domestic situation or people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Officer as Hahn goes through each scenario as an officer, sometimes getting background information along the way.
“A cop goes to the front door and knocks on the door,” Hahn said, describing the start of a domestic violence scenario.
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The agents also have to make choices that change the way the scenario unfolds.
“There are two options: bring the couple together or keep the couple apart. I’d like to keep the couple apart,” Hahn said.
What is unique is that the system offers two perspectives, both that of the agent and that of the interlocutor.
“It’s just an eye-opener to see both while you’re in the screenplay,” Hahn said.
Burdis said VR is a way to test the officer’s instincts for potentially dangerous situations in a completely safe environment.
“[It] gives you the ability to put officers in a different scenario that you can’t create in the real world,” he said.
The department is just getting started with VR, but early feedback is promising.
“It’s pretty cool to see yourself in the situation,” Hahn said.
Burdis said the scenarios don’t reflect every reality officers face, but he hopes officers can learn different skills and ways to deal with challenges.
“If they can use it on the street once, it’ll be worth the wait,” he said.
There are currently nearly 10 scenarios in the system, and Burdis said more interactive scenarios are coming, including some that officers and their partners can do together. He also said that some scenarios will allow him or another trainer to change the scenario in real time.