Virtual Reality Training Simulator for Danbury police

Technology and weapons development company Axon Network showed staff at headquarters on Thursday how virtual reality and technology can better prepare officers for complex situations that require critical thinking and de-escalation.

“It's really, really realistic,” Mayor Dean Esposito said after trying one of Axon's training modules.

After putting on a virtual reality headset, Esposito was immersed twice in a scenario involving a schizophrenic man — first from the point of view of the man, then from the point of view of an off-duty police encountering him.

Virtual reality is one of the latest products Axon has been working on to improve policing, along with officer and community safety. The company began n 1993 making stun guns as Taser International, then moved on body cameras in the mid-2000s.

Axon Senior Regional Manager Mark Swenson said police departments don't get enough training, but virtual reality equipment and simulation technology can help “fill the gap between what officers are and are not getting.”

Danbury police officers are equipped with Axon body cameras, but the department has not purchased the company's virtual reality and simulation technology — not yet at least.

“If it can fit in the budget,” Chief Patrick Ridenhour said, adding  incorporation of virtual reality could improve officers' training.

Axon solution specialist and former law enforcement officer Clint Collins agreed, adding virtual reality and simulation technology training can lead to better outcomes rather than relying on traditional training methods like classroom instruction and role-playing.

Traditional methods be time-consuming, limited, expensive and unrealistic, Collins said, but those trained using virtual reality tend to retain information better than those who don't.

“Virtual reality is the solution to effective police training,” he said, adding retention rates among virtual reality users is around 80 percent.

Collins said virtual reality's immersion makes a difference because it “creates a memory.”

In addition to reinforcing situational learning objectives and deescalation tactics, virtual reality can help officers sharpen firing-range skills and practice deescalation techniques.

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