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Salem Police Exploring Virtual Reality Prospects for Use-of-Force Training

The Salem Police Foundation is planning to raise an estimated $100,000 for purchasing a virtual reality (VR) simulator for its new headquarters. The recently held breakfast fundraiser of the Salem Police Foundation was followed by virtual sessions where individuals grabbed guns to engage in combat with criminals.

The first VR participant stood at a table accompanied by a police officer, looking ahead on the screen, to see a man with a hand in his pocket yelling at them. Without warning, the man in the virtual reality feature is seen pulling out an empty hand, before trying to grab a gun from behind. Alerted, the participant fires a few shots at the gunman, who falls to the ground. This marks the end of the VR simulation scenario. It is a mini version of the $135 thousand Ti Training simulator the Salem Police Department wants to incorporate and is raising funds for.

According to Salem Police Lt. Treven Upkes, funds of $35,000 have been raised for a computer program, to be used for projecting scenarios police might encounter on three 10×14 feet panels. The new headquarters of the Police Department is set to launch at the tail end of this year, with a designated room for the virtual reality training simulation program.

Sgt. Matt Riddle of Salem Police informed that the training set up involves having an instructor pulling strings behind the scenes. This person is responsible for tweaking the training program whilst the participating offers are making instant decisions. A key feature of the VR simulator is enabling the participants to select their own adventure grades, as there are multiple versions of the scenarios. The instructor has the choice of changing outcomes of scenarios if they become aware of an officer quitting any particular situation. It will, in turn, be reflected in the results of that training session.

Riddle emphasised that the VR offering is a decision-making simulator rather than a conventional shooting simulator. He explained that the realism factor of the training is higher than in scenarios where peers have to put on masks and do their best criminal impressions. It is being seen as a step forward as far as training goes. Riddle said that most officers receiving training are used to the idea of the conventional criminal role-playing technique, and this approach is limited in terms of variety.

Recently, a video was showcased by the police, in which they are seen having a light moment as they joke about their old training approaches. In the video, the dated training exercises are featured along with an addition of classic music to ramp up the fun quotient. The video moves forward into a ‘new simulator’ section where a man is seen trapping a woman hostage.

The VR simulation program for use-of-force training features adaptors for handguns, Tasers, shotguns, and flashlights. Upkes emphasised that they can train more often with the simulator, as the need for off-site training coordination fall. The simulator is also convenient for graveyard shift officers who will not need to change sleep schedules for adjusting to the training schedules.

Training frequency, which is now once every quarter for each officer, could be raised to weekly with the VR simulator. Riddle seems convinced that frequent practice sessions will lead to higher employee retention.

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