Beyond the Badge: Ivy Tech is first academic institution to get VR law enforcement training program

Beyond the Badge: Ivy Tech is first academic institution to get VR law enforcement training program

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- This week on Beyond the Badge, we’re diving into the future of tech in law enforcement. One local college is now using artificial intelligence to teach its aspiring law enforcement and correctional officers how to handle serious situations when they get out into the field.

The new tool is also available for local agencies to train in a safe and controlled environment.

Ivy Tech Community College South Bend-Elkhart is the first educational institution in the country to get the VR headset program. It allows students and officers to go through simulated situations, including everything from firearms to drug abuse, to mental health distress, and focuses on teaching empathy.

“The headset system also trains them in a safe environment to go out and use things like less lethal weapons such as tasers and or to deploy their firearms in a safe controlled environment,” Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Program Chair Andrew Criswell said.

Previous Beyond the Badge stories focused on the “shoot or don’t shoot” simulation training; this system has even more options and the standout addition is the virtual reality headset.

“It uses a real Taser 7; It uses a real simulated Glock 19 that is weighted exactly like a Glock 19 would be out in the field,” Criswell said. “So, the students have a very good familiarity of what they're going to be using equipment wise once they step out into their job.”

The immersive technology allows the user to feel and see what the perpetrator would at the given moment in the situation.

“At Ivy Tech, we want to change the narrative around law enforcement, change the narrative around corrections, right now's a really tough time for everybody working in public safety,” he said. “So, we want to bring as much technology in to help ease that transition for our students as they go out into the field and go to work.”

“They have to make real life decisions such as, ‘Do I want to help this person in a personal or social manner?’ Or ‘do I want to just follow the law as it is written and use discretion in an active manner to maybe process charges with them?’ Or, you know, ‘what are the options that I have as I'm stepping out into the field?’”

Criswell said that when discussing empathy training, you also have to understand that use of force is necessary in many different situations when it comes to law enforcement and/or corrections.

“So, we do teach the standard use of force continuum, which teaches every single one of our students that when they go and respond to a situation, they have to respond in a significant manner, but they have to respond in a controlled manner that follows several steps, those include the presence of an officer, verbal direction by an officer, empty hand control, less lethal methods and finally deadly force.”

“We talk about discretion a lot in law enforcement because when officers go out into the field, they have to make very quick judgments based upon the scenario that they might be in. These scenarios give them the ability to make those judgments in a safe environment, and then come back and later debrief about what they might have learned in that scenario.”

“Law enforcement sees people at their very, very worst, and our students need to be prepared for that, whether that means understanding minority differences, or whether that means understanding someone's mental health condition or mental health situation. We want to make sure that our students are 100% prepared for all of those situations and scenarios.”

Some features have been on back order, but soon they will have the addition of a tablet and equipment that gives them even more control of making these situations more real and intense.

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