Axon develops VR training scenarios for police officer peer intervention

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Two new VR training scenarios from Axon will help police officers with the difficult task of knowing when and how to stand up to their peers

Quick read

➨ Axon, best known for developing the Taser, debuted its new VR autism empathy training for police officers last year, and launched a schizophrenia scenario in October 2018
➨ The new training scenarios cover officer intervention, post-traumatic stress injury for officers and community members, Alzheimer’s/dementia, and hard of hearing
➨ Axon says the first two new training scenarios, both based on peer intervention, will be made available to law enforcement agencies in the fourth quarter of 2020, with the rest slated to be available in the first half of 2021

The story

US-headquartered law enforcement specialist Axon has developed six new scenarios for its VR training platform for situation de-escalation.

Axon, best known for developing the Taser, debuted its new VR autism empathy training for police officers last year, and launched a schizophrenia scenario in October 2018.

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

The new training scenarios cover officer intervention, post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) for officers and community members, Alzheimer’s/dementia, and hard of hearing.

Axon says the first two new training scenarios, both based on peer intervention, will be made available to law enforcement agencies in the fourth quarter of 2020, with the rest slated to be available in the first half of 2021.

The first two training scenarios being made available by the end of 2020 help an officer determine when to step in if they see a colleague acting inappropriately.

The trainee is able to see the scene unfolding from both the point-of-view of the subject as well as the officer responding to the scene. One scenario features a noise complaint call involving a resident who has had previous run-ins with the police. The second features a homeless man who is panhandling on business property.

In both scenarios, the trainee must decide which decisions to make while working with a fellow officer who demonstrates an obvious bias towards the subjects.

To develop the VR training scenarios, Axon worked closely with community advocacy groups, mental health organisations, clinicians and law enforcement training experts.

The law enforcement technology company worked specifically with Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement, a group dedicated to help prepare officers to successfully intervene to prevent harm, and Ethical Policing is Courageous, a law enforcement peer intervention training programme, to develop the peer intervention scenarios.

Kathleen O’Toole, a former police chief and current member of Axon’s AI ethics board, believes the new peer intervention scenarios will help officers with the difficult task of “knowing when and how to stand up to your peers”, especially “in policing when faced with potentially volatile situations”.

She continued: “This immersive training will be very impactful as it will train officers to recognise when peers are acting inappropriately and empower them to intervene properly, resulting in successful, non-violent outcomes.”

Rick Smith, chief executive officer and founder of Axon, added: “After the events of this year, and the many tragic events that preceded 2020, it is clear that we need to offer law enforcement proactive versus reactive tools for reducing use of force.”

“Being trained on when not to deploy force is just as important as tactical training on how to deploy force, and that is what we are addressing with these new training modules. Our mission has always been to protect life and this training is a big step towards that goal.”

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Main image: Chicago Police Department officers using the Axon VR training platform last year. Credit: Chicago Police Department

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