New virtual reality training system assists de-escalation and crisis situations

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(ABC 6 News) – Police officers in north Iowa are getting some new training to help with crisis situations, like active shooters and domestic violence.

This week, Mason City police have been training on a virtual reality simulator that allows them to experience real-life de-escalation and crisis situations

Police Chief Jeff Brinkley says partnering with NIACC for this virtual reality training, is going to benefit officers, and the people they are helping.

“Being able to reinforce training scenarios in this kind of environment where the computer operator controls the reaction by the role player is really important for us in terms of emphasizing in terms on training on in terms of de-escalation you know right response, bystander intervention and those kinds of things so this is a great tool to have in our own backyard,” said Brinkley.

The simulator is controlled by someone running the computer. They will determine the how the real-life situation plays out based on the officer’s response. The guns they use are fake but sync up with the system to simulate their shot.

“I think it helps us build the ability to respond to real people and humans in those roles instead of paper targets. There’s more dynamics than you might think in the training environment,” Brinkley explained.

Alyse Devries is a program developer at NIACC, she says the college is thankful for its partnership with the Mason City police department.

“They’re an integrative part of the community and this is just one more step to be able to work with them,” Devries said.

NIACC and Mason City police received grant money from the Vera foundation.

The simulator costs 25-thousand dollars, and the remaining grant dollars will be used for scholarships.

“So we’re just now learning all the possibilities of the simulator. So we’ll be able to do a lot with continuing education, a lot of training throughout the community, but also we have programs onsite too that we’ll be able to do with students,” Devries explained.

“I hope that’s the message that the community receives, is that we are committed to cutting-edge training best practices and the latest thing that we need to do to help keep our community safe and our officers safe,” Brinkley said.

More than 400 law enforcement and military locations spanning local police and federal government use virtual reality simulator to improve judgment, critical thinking, communication skills, and decision-making during highly stressful encounters.