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Ohio launches virtual reality training systems for use at all state law enforcement agencies

“You’re observing each officer, analyzing the scene, each person, each subject and thinking about what you would do differently,” Columbus Police Lt. Amber Rich said

By Joanna Putman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio has launched a new virtual reality training program for law enforcement officials, marking a significant advancement in police instruction, according to an NBC4i report.

Attorney General Dave Yost unveiled the program in May, highlighting its potential to improve training by immersing officers in high-stakes scenarios, according to the report. The VR training equips officers with goggles that provide a 360-degree view, simulating real-life situations requiring split-second decisions.

The training sessions cover mental health, domestic violence, school violence and suicide prevention scenarios, among others. These sessions, lasting eight to 12 minutes each, are designed to replicate the adrenaline rush and physical reactions officers experience on the street, without the actual risk, according to the report.

“You’re wearing some goggles, but it’s not like watching a screen because it’s 360 degrees,” Yost stated. “When you turn your head, you see a different part of the room. It’s like actually being there.”

The training showcases various outcomes based on different approaches, allowing officers to learn from both effective and ineffective tactics, according to the report. Ohio has distributed 160 VR headsets to six regional training centers, making them accessible to all 900 law enforcement agencies in the state.

“You feel like you’re the third officer there on scene,” Columbus Police Lt. Amber Rich said. “You’re observing each officer, analyzing the scene, each person, each subject and thinking about what you would do differently.”

The headsets can be easily transported, allowing entire departments to complete the training in a single day, according to the report. The program, developed over two years and piloted last year, was a response to funding challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted casino revenue that typically supports police training.

“I think this is going to be a real fixture in police training,” Yost said. “The officers that have been through this have been incredibly enthusiastic about it. Much better, they say, than sitting through a lecture or watching a video screen.”