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Internal lesson plan documents suggest police are using virtual reality to train officers on handling ‘mentally ill subjects.’
The documents mention VirTra, an Arizona-based VR company offering training lessons to police forces. “VirTra created immersive science-based training simulations designed to teach a variety of cognitive and psycho-motor skills ranging from de-escalation to judgmental use of force to situational awareness,” reads the company’s website. The lesson plan outlines were obtained from the Orlando Police Department via a FOIA request.
One plan is described as, “Develop a better understanding of how to interact with an Emotionally Disturbed Person.” The training asks officers to accomplish ‘learning goals,’ for instance, “communicating calmly and clearly with the individual and reducing the immediacy of any threat so they more time, options and resources are available to the officer to resolve the situation with the least amount of force as possible.”
The training documents emerge after a year of calls to defund the police, re-direct money, and reduce the use of lethal weapons. After the death of George Floyd, who was heavily intoxicated at the time of his death, efforts to handle mentally unstable individuals have increased. “I am happy to see the highlight of how agencies are using the system. We support and encourage the use of it as a highly effective tool for teaching and emphasizing de-escalation,” Lon Bartel, VirTra’s director of training and curriculum, said in a statement.
ARTICLE: ANTOINETTE AHO
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: VRFOCUS