The New Castle County Division of Police (NCCDP) is leveraging technology to try to better train its officers.
The county police recently acquired 23 Axon virtual reality headsets meant for training simulation. The headset’s six training modules focus on officers learning to safely interact and empathize with citizens who are suicidal, schizophrenic, autistic, hearing impaired or those suffering from Alzheimer’s or Post Traumatic Stress.
“The officer experiences the world through their eyes,” said Officer First Class Grigori Lopez-Garcia. “Once the scenario is over, the officer sees how the scenario played out from the officer’s point of view and the officer is able to make decisions within the simulation that will lead to certain different outcomes.”
Lopez-Garcia adds the training simulation is like nothing the division has had before.
“This is much superior to simply observing a familiar environment, like maybe seeing something on television like a power point or something,” he said. “Because you’re so immersed in it, you're able to see how the other person sees the world.”
Garcia-Lopez says future training modules will be geared at developing officers’ de-escalation techniques.
He says the VR headsets will be implemented immediately in the academy program and will be available as well for existing officers to use.
NCCDP officers have been equipped with body cameras since 2016. In 2019, NCCDP created a Behavioral Health Unit combining its Hero Help Program, which refers people to substance abuse treatment rather than arrest them in certain cases, with its Mental Health Alliance, which pairs a mental health clinician with a police officer to respond to certain 911 calls