Bedminster Township Police Plug Into Virtual Crisis Intervention Team Training for Real-World Success

man with goggles
Image via Ivan Samkov at Pexels.
Bedminster Township police officers are joining colleagues across Bucks County in VR training for a unique approach to mastering deescalation techniques.

Bucks County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) use of virtual training has already reshaped law enforcement for officers in Central Bucks, Buckingham, Doylestown, and Plumstead. The initiative is now on its way to Bedminster Township. Julie Edinger plugged into the program’s proliferation for Government Technology.

The CIT introduced virtual reality training last fall.

The 40-hour course uses goggles and high-tech software to put officers in mock situations where they navigate interactions with citizens with mental health or other behavioral issues.

The goal is to teach de-escalation techniques using immersive yet safe scenarios.

The sessions begin with an officer taking the perspective of the person in crisis. “It will alter the scene as if you are the patient, and you have the unique experience of it through their eyes,” Bedminster Township Police Chief Matt Phelan said.

After experiencing what compromised members of the public may be feeling, seeing, hearing, and inferring in high-stress situations, the student then swaps views.

The software enables multiple outcomes. Many of the goggles-wearing trainees appreciate repeat “trips” through the same scenario, testing different approaches.

The training also includes interaction with real-life members of the public who struggle with emotional and mental health. These sessions ensure that the virtual experience is augmented with personal feedback and the understanding that results from it.

More on this Crisis Intervention Team training is at Government Technology.

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