LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) – With police departments around the country under scrutiny for their use of force, one small New Mexico department is trying something different to stay out of the spotlight. They’re using virtual reality to train their officers.
Los Alamos is known for its technology and the city’s police department wants to follow suit, showing off their new virtual reality training program on Monday. “To be able to work everything from crisis intervention training to escalation, de-escalation training, active shooter situations. Essentially, we have an unlimited amount of possibilities with this system,” says Sgt. Chris Ross with the Los Alamos Police Department.
Although Los Alamos hasn’t had a murder since 2009, and officer-involved shootings are rare, they believe the $80,000 program will pay off. Called “Apex Officers”, it was created by a Las Vegas, Nevada company that’s run by retired law enforcement officials. It puts an officer in a room, while next door, the Los Alamos Police Department’s Use-of-Force instructor can create a scenario using a hundred different characters that vary in gender, race, age, and size.
“They can change what that suspect is doing based upon what the officer is doing immediately. So, if the officer is saying the right things when it comes to a crisis intervention, he can de-escalate it. If the officer is saying the wrong things, he can escalate the situation and then get that positive feedback right afterwards,” said Sgt. Ross.
He says the department’s 35 officers have gone through the training and will take refresher courses every few months. “We’re always trying to get better in law enforcement. We are constantly out there trying to improve and this technology is going to give us that ability to improve our services that we’re offering to the community that we’re out there interacting with,” said Sgt. Ross.
Apex Officer says each of its virtual reality simulators features more than a million scenarios, including scenarios that can expose bias.