The police department in Scranton, Pennsylvania has received what’s being dubbed the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Justice Assistance Grant, and have set up a VR training station with it. Current police training methods include a classroom setting and a shooting range, after the completion of a stint in the academy. This does not provide officers with training in the wide range of stressful situations that they can encounter in the field, and this lack of training can have tragic consequences when officers are harmed in the line of duty because they couldn’t handle a situation properly, or the officer needlessly harms a civilian or animal. This gap is exactly what VR training is meant to address.
The training machine set up in Scranton uses a number of HTC Vive units that can train individually, or have their inputs and outputs stitched together for group training. Using special cameras, the department can create realistic training exercises with a 300 degree field of vision, allowing officers to immerse themselves in a situation and be stressed, challenged, and tested in much the same ways that they would out in the field, but without the inherent danger. The simulations are made to be incredibly realistic, and as seen in the featured image, have officers using prop guns to practice trigger discipline and other firearm safety measures. The goal is to keep both officers and civilians safe by presenting officers with stressful situations before they happen for real. In this fashion, officers are conditioned not to fire at innocent civilians, but also to know when a situation is escalating out of control and deadly force may be needed.
According to Scranton Police Chief Carl Graziano, training officers is not the only implication of this technology. He wants to make his department’s setup public, so that other police departments can use the same hardware for similar training, and so that the general public can gain more of an appreciation for law enforcement by going through the scenarios in VR training themselves so that they get a taste of what officers are faced with in the line of duty.