OPELICA, Ala. (WRBL) — Virtual reality is helping a law enforcement agency in East Alabama train its officers to better respond to stressful calls to keep themselves and the community safe.
Opelika training officer Chase Higgins is similar to a virtual puppeteer. With his headset, keyboard and computer mouse, Higgins skillfully simulates stressful situations, similar to daily phone calls from police. From angry drivers, hostage situations and mental crisis calls, Apex Virtual training is an invaluable tool.
“We can base our training on the needs of officers. So if we want to see how agents react to a psychological crisis or a critical incident, we can simulate that in a virtual environment, or if we want to see how they behave when dealing with someone with a mental crisis, we can simulate that in a virtual environment. places. scenario and see how they communicate and how they de-escalate,” Higgins said.
The VR system is a live conversation centered on an interaction between the officer and an avatar civilian role played by Officer Higgins.
“There is no set route that this is going to happen or that is going to happen. There is no set storyline or anything like that. What I tell people is that I’m going to play on a whim. I’ll give them a scenario and bones of the situation, and I’ll play based on you,” Higgins said.
Citizens Police Academy participants also use the simulator to get a sense of the split-second decisions a cop has to make.
“It was hard for me to do, and I have a better appreciation for what law enforcement does.” said contestant Denise Rogers.
Higgins agrees that the most powerful weapon an officer has is their ability to communicate and effectively resolve a situation peacefully. Practice makes perfect. Virtual training helps protect our real community.
“I’m so grateful that we’re big proponents of that here at the Opelika Police Department. This is not a shoot or don’t shoot simulation. I see this helping to train our officers in crisis intervention. We are fortunate enough to partner with East Alabama Mental Health and East Alabama Medical Center to ensure officers are helping people in mental crisis and that we are not causing them additional stress,” Higgins said.
After each simulation, the participant and the training managers meet to discuss what went well, what they could improve and the options based on the scenario. If you would like to try the virtual reality program, you can contact the Opelika Police Department and apply for the Citizens Police Academy.