Officers point to training and technology as top priorities

sponsored by Bolko

Written by Jesse O’Brien for Police1 BrandFocus

Survey data show that better technology use and training are among the top priorities listed by law enforcement officials. When used correctly, technology and training can lighten the workload and improve police work. One agency is using virtual reality to address both concerns.

According to NES-LE, 63% of law enforcement officials say technology helps them do their jobs effectively.

According to NES-LE, 63% of law enforcement officials say technology helps them do their jobs effectively. (UW-Madison Police Department / Facebook)

National Law Enforcement Officer Survey (The NES-LE) by Bolko An internal assessment that investigates how police and mayor’s office employees view their jobs. The NES-LE Police Survey It gives agencies insights into the successes and weaknesses within their departments, and demonstrates what is most important to law enforcement personnel to successfully carry out their jobs.

Based on nationwide findings, 95% of officers said training, such as de-escalation techniques, crisis management and mental health, was the main concern. And 89% said the use of technology, such as drones and less-lethal electric weapons, was the second biggest priority.

Michelle Kobayashi, Vice President of Innovation at Bolko. “We’re seeing more agencies experimenting with new technology.”

virtual reality training

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department recently implemented virtual reality training in its program to supplement scenario training during the downtime. The project was led by retired Training Police Officer Stuart Baloig and Juan Avila, UWPD Night Shift Patrol Lieutenants. Avila said there is usually a lot of time lost between sets during realistic scenario-based training. Then the officers get a chance to use virtual reality.

the system, InveriseIt includes many scenarios. Agencies can choose what they want to focus their training on.

With virtual reality, “we have the ability to stop traffic, do active shooting scenarios, do shoot/no shoot scenarios,” Avila said, “But more focus was able to communicate back and forth, [practice] De-escalate, interact with other people within the screen who can talk to you when you give them an order.”

Upon purchasing VR, UWPD was able to build its own custom scenario that looked like a real place. Avila and his team sent photos and videos to a psychiatric unit at the nearby hospital for virtual reality mapping. The UWPD chose to duplicate this site due to the practical communication challenges related to responding to a person experiencing a mental health crisis. As revealed by NES-LE, this is the biggest concern of agencies across the United States

The goal of the simulation is for officers to de-escalate a patient who needs to be taken to a mental health facility, but refuses to go. Unlike other virtual reality systems, the characters interact and respond to the words and actions of the officer.

If the officer cannot speak to the patient, the situation escalates and then the officer can choose to use a weapon, such as pepper spray, flashlight, wand, pistol or revolver. After the simulation, they debriefed about what happened, how to improve, and what was done well.

Lieutenant Juan Avila helped lead the implementation of virtual reality training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department.

Lieutenant Juan Avila helped lead the implementation of virtual reality training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department. (courtesy/polko)

How law enforcement can benefit from technology

“You can see that the officers take the notes and take the training very seriously,” Avila said. They have implemented it on the streets and have similar cases to what they just did in training. For us, it worked.”

Avila said officers recently had to talk about a suicidal patient in the hospital’s psychiatric unit. Virtual reality training is directly related to the real life scenario.

Agencies that create a custom script can choose to make it public. Doing this allows any other agency with VR to take advantage of custom maps, which is helpful because mapping is expensive. The program costs $50,000 to set up. Not every agency will be willing to pay for it, nor the extra cost of a new custom map. But prioritizing spending on technology may be beneficial for some agencies.

According to NES-LE, 63% of law enforcement officials say technology helps them do their jobs effectively. Today, many agencies have few employees and do not have the resources to address the growing mental health concerns. While technology cannot replace the value of a human employee who can connect and de-escalate a situation, using technology as a complementary tool, as the UWPD has done, can relieve some of the stress.

“Our research shows that training and technology are two areas that officers value most,” Kobayashi said. “Agencies that coordinate their priorities with these needs are more likely to experience greater success.”

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About the author

Jesse O’Brien is a copywriter at Polco.