In recent years virtual reality has gone from the science fiction to science fact and as a form of entertainment has become extremely popular seemingly almost overnight. While VR has very definite entertainment value, police training academies and departments around the world are starting to see its value both as a training tool and more recently as a way to reach out and connect with the residents in their communities.
Take a Walk in an Officer’s Shoes
There is an old saying about taking a walk in my shoes before you complain. Thanks to virtual reality, it is now possible for a person to do exactly this. With public opinion regarding the police still far lower than it should be, what if you could find a way for members of the public to spend time as a law enforcement officer without ever having to leave the classroom or local community center?
Imagine how their opinions might be changed, how much more respect the average citizen might have for the man or woman behind the badge. Instead of the “coffee break and donuts” opinion they might have or the “overuse of authority” view, by seeing what a day in the life of the average officer is like, they might see law enforcement officers in a different light.
But, Wait Why Not Just Show Movies
Most of us can remember the horrible movies shown during Driver’s Ed classes complete with blood, gore, and smashed cars. But, be honest, did these movies do much to change the way you drive? Probably not. Well, the same mindset can be applied to a film that covers a day in the life of a law enforcement officer. People would watch it, show a small amount of empathy, and then promptly forget it the next time they are pulled over for a traffic violation.
Researchers have found that the total immersion experience of “virtually” being dropped right into another person’s “shoes” can have a far more lasting effect. Unlike watching a movie where you are still yourself and not the character in the film, with VR you virtually become the other person. Which, in this case, is a police officer going about his daily routine.
You experience what the officer does complete with your own reactions and emotions to every situation you encounter. During your immersion in the officer’s routine, you can’t help but develop empathy for the officer having seen everything from his perspective. Being able to let members of the public share in this experience and become a police officer going through a particularly stressful event such as making the decision to draw their weapon can have a profound impact.
Virtual reality technology is indeed a potent tool with many uses. It is possible that it may be the one tool in your arsenal that can be used to reach out to your community and build a stronger relationship with them as they see the daily challenges most officers in their community face and how they deal with them.