PHOENIX — Every time police shoot a person, it negatively impacts their relationship with the community. To combat shootings, police departments work to have the best training possible.
Scottsdale-based Axon has a long-running relationship with law enforcement providing tasers, an alternative to a gun.
Now, Axon is also helping with training after developing a virtual reality training for officers that, according to President Luke Larson, is available to Phoenix police any time and anywhere.
“What’s really cool about VR technology is we’re at this inflection point where the immersive experience really creates better outcomes,” Larson said. “What this allows is agencies to do is to go into these scenarios where they might not have great training materials today and go through an immersive experience.”
Phoenix Police Department Sgt. Andy Williams said that conventional training generally takes place at the academy using actors.
Training typically requires that officers are pulled from the field for a day or more, which causes a logistical issue with staffing.
The VR training only requires a trainee, a helmet, and an internet connection. The trainer can watch the scenario play out from an iPad.
“If he’s failing then they can stop and address it and give him additional chances to grasp the learning concept,” Sgt. Williams said. “It’s going to benefit that officer, and it’s going to benefit the community. These officers are going to be that much more prepared for the situation instead of figuring out as they go.”
Domestic violence, mental health crises, PTSD, and interactions with people with developmental disabilities are all potential training scenarios.
Phoenix is the first department in the nation to begin using this training, thanks to a 2019 contract the department signed with Axon.