Axon partners with Chicago PD for VR empathy training

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The Chicago Police Department (PD) is piloting virtual reality (VR) empathy training from Axon.

The partnership marks the debut of Axon’s new autism empathy training for police officers. The law enforcement technology provider, best known for developing the Taser, launched a schizophrenia empathy scenario in October last year.

Axon’s VR training programme is designed to better equip police officers with the tools to de-escalate situations involving people suffering from mental health issues, crises or psychotic episodes.

The VR technology provides officers with an immersive training programme in which trainees can put themselves in the shoes of both the officer responding to the scene and the person in crisis.

For the pilot programme, Axon will work closely with the Chicago PD to incorporate the VR training into its existing curriculum.

Laura Brown, senior director of training at Axon, said: “It’s humbling to work with the second largest police department in the country to pilot this VR training programme.”

“There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for responding to calls for service in the field. The more police officers understand what people are experiencing during a crisis, the more they can adapt their response to effectively de-escalate the situation and protect lives.”

Chicago PD lieutenant Antoinette Ursitti, a crisis intervention team programme coordinator, added: “The goal is to take crisis intervention training out of the classroom, and into a virtual field. We’re excited to see how this new partnership with Axon can help our department not only understand civilians in crisis, but equip them to de-escalate situations verbally.”

Law enforcement is proving to be fertile ground for VR training. The New York Police Department recently carried out a week-long pilot programme, during which several hundred officers undertook active shooter training drills in VR at a facility in Brooklyn.

Image credit: Axon