Spokane police among first agencies to use VR headsets in officer training

SEATTLE — The Spokane Police Department is one of the first 100 agencies in the nation to use virtual reality headsets to prepare officers for situations they may face on the street.

The technology offers a variety of scenarios for officers to react to. In some cases, they have to find ways to de-escalate volatile situations or decide when the use of force is needed.

Some scenarios give officers choices on how they want to proceed.

“We also use (the technology) for use of force where it’s a scenario where somebody may be coming at the officer with an edged weapon or an object that could hurt them, and they may have to use Tasers or a less lethal tool to end that scenario,” Spokane Police Department Lt. Steve Wohl said in a video about the VR training.

Wohl said the department is always looking for ways to give its officers better training.

“We put officers through scenarios where they’re actually witnessing and living what someone with schizophrenia is feeling, so they’re hearing the thoughts and mental processes that someone in crisis is dealing with. It’s more realistic than trying to watch a TV and react to that. So, you’re actually viewing and are in that situation as it unfolds,” said Wohl.

After the officer completes a scenario, they are debriefed about what worked well, what could be improved and issues that may have come up during the session, KXLY reported.

Axon, the company that provides the technology, was training some Spokane officers last week. That training will then be passed on to all officers in the department starting in early February, according to KXLY.

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