Phoenix PD to be among first to use new virtual reality de-escalation training

VR headsets are coming to a Valley police department.
VR headsets are coming to a Valley police department.(Hand-out | Axon)
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 9:47 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Training for Phoenix police officers is about to go high-tech. A new immersive virtual reality training by a Scottsdale-based company is now available, and those in the Valley will be among the first to roll out the service to officers.

Axon, which makes body cameras and other law enforcement products, says the new training should help officers better develop de-escalation and critical thinking skills. The company said that the Phoenix Police Department is among the first agencies to roll out the service.

How it works

Using virtual reality, Axon says trainers and trainees can be deployed in any environment that allows officers to train as often or as little as needed. Simulator Training says the training puts officers through “immersive, real-life” scenarios that require them to use their expertise and de-escalation training and apply it. After the session, which lasts about 10 to 20 minutes, the platform can analyze an officer’s performance and show them what additional training is needed.

The company says its VR training platform is made of up its “Axon Academy” training materials, which is content that is designed to help build hard and soft skills learning through the training sessions. “Community engagement training” primarily targets learning to develop deeper empathy and communication with people with autism, schizophrenia, suicide, domestic violence, Alzheimer’s and profound agitation. Finally, Axon’s “simulator training” showcases how to learn safe and effective ways to deploy less-than-lethal weapons.

Study shows success

A study from the National League of Cities revealed signs that the program is effective, which Arizona’s Family previously reported on when the department first released about 200 headsets. That 2019 study looked at 85 officers in Phoenix PD’s South Mountain Precinct who took nine modules of the session. In a news release, Axon wrote that 81.4 percent of those who participated said it was “effective” in helping them adapt to a call. In addition, more than half of those said the training encouraged them to look at calls from another perspective.