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IACP 2022: How virtual reality can reduce profiling in policing

Dutch Police developed a simulation game for officers to complete a series of tasks, including detecting a person “demonstrating deviant behavior”


DALLAS — Results of two virtual reality (VR) simulation studies, which were used to assess police officer knowledge and attitudes on fair and impartial policing, were presented to attendees of the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference on Tuesday.

The Dutch Police developed a virtual reality simulation game for individual officers to complete a series of tasks, including detecting a person “demonstrating deviant behavior.”

During the game, the officer can escalate in a variety of branching scenarios. If things go wrong in the simulation, the officer is given the opportunity to de-escalate. After completing the scenarios, participants reflect on their choices with other participants. The studies revealed positive results in increasing knowledge and constructive attitudes toward the subject of fair and impartial policing.

Watch this video to better understand the program. (Note: You may need to turn on English subtitles.)

Memorable quotes on virtual reality training

Here are several quotes from Bas Böing, a captain with the Dutch National Police:

  • “[Bias is] the use of criteria such as race, color, language, religion, nationality or notational or ethic origin in control, surveillance or investigation activities, without reasonable and objective justification.”

  • “We don’t want officers [during the VR simulation] to select suspects on gut feeling, because what we see is based on our experience.”

  • “It is expensive to make good immersive content. If you run it on 300 devices with thousands of police officers, you have a higher return on investment.”

Key takeaways on using VR for bias-related training

Böing’s presentation on virtual reality (VR) was well received by an engaged audience, and he answered questions from attendees representing departments from around the world. Here are four top takeaways from Böing’s presentation.

1. Bias has an impact on policing

According to Böing, bias makes police work less effective, decreases public trust, lowers community willingness to comply and cooperate with police, and corrupts data systems. Bias can also decrease participation in learning, avoiding activities and not following policies.

2. Virtual reality virtues

Virtual reality, based on Böing’s experience, has greater officer participation because it is novel. “The fun factor of virtual reality can motivate people to participate,” he said. In addition, virtual reality can distract participants from anxiety, physical pain and emotional pain.

Interactive gameplay, using virtual reality, can provide direct feedback after each attempt, which might enhance learning. Like other types of games or simulations, researchers are able to use virtual reality in control experiments to assess its efficacy.

3. VR training sequence

The virtual reality games are part of a two-day training program. After completing the simulation participants, in groups of five to 10 officers, discuss what they’ve seen and explain the choices they’ve made. Officers, hearing different conclusions, learn from one another within the context of the department’s policy.

4. Experiment results

More than 15,000 police officers have completed the training in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. The police participants in the VR research gained knowledge, became more resilient and had more conversations about the quality of police stops and preventing ethnic profiling.

Though they’ve already learned a lot, Böing discussed the need for ongoing research, including repeated exposure to multiple scenarios, integration of deep fake technology, and application for other needs.

Learn more about VR training for police

Learn more about the training program at Police1 has many articles, videos and other resources on virtual reality and police virtual reality training, including the on-demand webinar, The role of VR in police training and community policing.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1, EMS1 and Gov1. Greg has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, paramedic and runner. Greg is a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Ask questions or submit article ideas to Greg by emailing him at and connect with him on LinkedIn.