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Virtual reality training helping police practice de-escalation practices

The West Des Moines Police Department uses a virtual reality simulator to help train de-escalation tactics with the goal of not using force.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — The West Des Moines Police Department continues the conversation of officers engaged with the community. 

The department uses a virtual reality simulator to help train de-escalation tactics with the goal of not using force.

“We’ve had to use force with calls in the past and we never want to. We always want to de-escalate that to where no force is needed every time we go on a call for service," said Jody Hayes, assistant chief for the WDMPD.

Hayes said all 89 officers in the department train monthly. 

Here's how it works: officers will hear a scenario from dispatch. They will interact with the simulation while Hayes controls what the simulation does.

“I can send a command for the suspect to say something," explained Hayes. 

There are 240 scenarios, such as an active shooter or a complicated murder-suicide.

“Scenario-based training is the best training that we can give our police officers," said Hayes. "So, putting those scenarios out there for them to go thru and experience gets them ready for real life.”

Hayes said there are only two simulators like this in the state. One in West Des Moines and another in Dubuque County. The department measures their success with the training by what the officers tell them goes on in the field. 

The simulator is on lease from a company, and they pay approximately $50,000 a year. This cost is paid for out of the annual training budget. 

A portion of that lease expense is re-cooped each year by not using, actual, firearm ammunition on the shooting range.

    

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