AMU Law Enforcement Original Public Safety

How Virtual Reality Can Enhance Police Officer Training

Training is a critical component to ensure that police officers meet the rigorous demands in the field. Police officer training is typically guided by recurring state certification requirements that are often accomplished in block training, which is instructional sessions over a period of several days.

Depending on the agency, block training occurs once or twice a year and includes classroom instruction on updated case laws, police policies and procedures, and many other important topics designed to maintain a professional police force.

Block training for annual re-certification typically includes hands-on exercises that may include the use of force. For example, hands-on scenarios and training commonly involve the use of electronic control devices and police batons, as well as de-escalation techniques.

Body Camera Videos Are Not as Effective as Putting Officers into Those Scenarios Themselves

With the nationwide increase of the use of police body cameras, video training will often include officers watching body camera training videos that display an officer’s actions. While there is some value in having officers observe archival videos of police in challenging situations, they are not as effective as putting officers into those scenarios themselves. Virtual reality videos enable officers to experience the physiological and psychological effects that occur when they are faced with demanding and stressful situations.

For example, when officers confront a personal threat, they are experiencing a traumatic incident. When they suddenly face danger, they commonly experience tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, increased heart rate and cortisol releases in the brain that influence how they will respond.

To help officers properly prepare for the physiological changes that occur under extreme stress, it is critical that they be placed in those environments during training before they experience them in the field. This virtual training can improve officers’ actual responses to traumatic, stressful, and dangerous situations and help to increase their safety.  

There Is No Substitute for Learning How to Make Effective, Split-Second Decisions

There is no substitute for learning how to make effective, split-second decisions when confronting a threat. Quality virtual reality training can provide this experience in a controlled environment.

Many companies offer virtual reality training for law enforcement. One such company is Apex Officer, which provides unlimited training scenarios using real firearms and equipment modified for virtual reality training.

Another company is Axon, whose virtual reality training involves scenarios developed by law enforcement experts and community leaders. According to Axon, its training can be recorded, which provides opportunities for coaching and future training.

Creating Peer Intervention Training

According to the Department of Justice, officers can be prosecuted if they fail to intervene when a fellow officer acts inappropriately on the job. Traditionally, it’s been challenging to train for use-of-force situations because in reality they occur very quickly.

So training officers to intervene when another officer has developed tunnel vision or has lost his temper is extremely important. Virtual reality training bridges this gap.

Axon has developed peer intervention virtual reality scenarios to train officers when there is a need to intervene. In one scenario, a virtual officer responds repeatedly to a noise complaint and begins to lose his temper. That prompts actual officers in training wearing virtual reality headsets to react. Their actual actions will influence how the virtual officer losing his temper responds.

Using virtual reality for police training in some of the most demanding and complex scenarios that officers experience increases preparedness and produces better outcomes in the field.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor. He has over 22 years’ experience in the field of homeland security. Jarrod has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Europe, and Central America on the topic of human trafficking, counter terrorism, police responses to domestic terrorism, and police stress management. For more information, please review

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