Schenectady Police using virtual reality for de-escalation training

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SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Schenectady Police Department and the Center for Community Justice teamed up with Catapult Games to develop virtual reality (VR) software centered around de-escalation tactics for police officers.

The user views a scenario through VR goggles and makes choices with a game controller in an attempt to de-escalate the hypothetical situation.

Schenectady PD Chief Eric Clifford demonstrated for the media on Tuesday, with the scenario he viewed through the goggles cast onto a screen for all to view. In the scenario, his partner was intensely escalating an interaction between the officers and a man in a car, and Clifford chose from a list of provided responses to try and calm things down.

Clifford says the new tool for his department expands on existing de-escalation training.

“By making it virtual reality and giving options, and then the scenario evolving based on the selection of those options, just kicks it up another notch as far as reality goes,” Clifford said.

The reality goes further by drawing from real scenarios that have occurred. The game developers at Catapult Games studied body camera footage from instances like the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and also plan to add local examples to their research.

“The chief has offered to provide us with scenarios,” said Gabriel Langlois, Lead Developer at Catapult Games, “and we will basically use that source material to really inform the scenarios we’re creating.”

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