CENTRAL BUCKS, Pa. – Bucks County police officers undergo de-escalation training through the lens of virtual reality.
The Central Bucks Regional Police Department (CBRPD) received a $159,037 federal grant to launch the program as the lead agency with partners including Buckingham, Doylestown and Plumstead Township Police Departments.
The program aims to reduce the intensity of police encounters with the public in crisis situations. The department uses Apex Officer, a virtual reality police training simulator.
“The scenarios are based on what [officers] do every day. It’s the real world, which is why we get such positive feedback from officers because they get to use it every day, which benefits them, our community and every interaction,” said Captain Robert Milligan, the program’s Master Instructor.
Bucks County police use VR to practice de-escalation.
The instructors scripted several real-world scenarios, including a mental health crisis, a suicidal person, a suspicious person, domestic riots, a theft in progress, an unknown problem, and a duty to intervene with an officer who interacts with the public.
The VR simulator allows the trainers to choose between different locations ranging from an apartment complex to an alley and a supermarket to a gentlemen’s club.
The trainer can also choose which character the officer interacts with, the character’s behavior, and any potential weapons they may be wielding.
The goal is always a peaceful solution and after the 3D simulation the trainer will discuss the scenario with the instructor.
“If you go back and he points something out, you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, wait a minute. I definitely could have done this differently or a little bit better or said something different,’ so that part really helps,” said CBRPD’s Officer Sean Tropiano, who is also a VR de-escalation instructor.
Central Bucks Police is the only Pennsylvania department to receive this federal grant from DOJ Community Oriented Police Services for de-escalation efforts.