Richmond Police Use $125K Grant On Virtual Reality Simulator For De-escalation Training

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond City Council approved a $125,000 grant from the United States Department of Justice for a virtual reality simulator intended to help officers with de-escalation training.

The Richmond Police Department last year applied for a grant from: the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) for a simulator to bolster its de-escalation training program.

“To provide responsive, comprehensive de-escalation training to every officer in our department and a range of local partners, the Richmond Police Department is proposing to use Apex Officer, a virtual reality training simulator used by many police departments in the US to increase our officers’ knowledge and readiness to use de-escalation strategies in the field,” reads the department’s July 2021 proposal.

The DOJ informed the department in October 2021 that it had been awarded the $125,000 grant to pay for the new virtual reality system.

On Monday, the city council voted to allow the city to accept the funding and, as a result, add the raise to the police’s special fund budget for fiscal year 2022.

According to the proposalRichmond Police Department expects to use the virtual reality system for more than 40 hours a month and will require all officers interacting with the public to undergo training.

The department also plans to publish a report on the impact the training has had on police protocols and the need for violence, as well as its impact in community settings such as schools and youth centers where staff have also received Apex Officer training.

The department added in the proposal that because it has a “staff shortage”, the system would help train without additional staff in a cost-effective method that “would not compromise the quality of training”.

“The Pro Training Simulator is an ideal tool as it offers a wide variety of de-escalation training scenarios that reflect the experiences of RPD officers, ranging from large-scale protests to simple traffic stops to mental health crises, and requires minimal support to facilitate training,” is the recommendation of the city council.

Law enforcement agencies in the US use virtual reality for training, including the Chesapeake Police Departmentbut Richmond’s proposal says the city’s department would be the first in central Virginia to use the virtual reality system for de-escalation.

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