New London ― Police officers Daquan Stuckey and Christina Nocito responded to a domestic assault call on Monday evening.
Except it was a simulation.
Wearing an Oculus-like headset and a computer unit on his back, Nocito was participating in the simulation as part of the de-escalation training. It was her first time using the equipment.
“I had to get used to what I was seeing,” Nocito said. “I always wanted to go down the stairs.”
Thanks to a $70,000 grant from the federal Department of Justice, the police department was the first in the state to acquire the APEX Officer virtual reality simulator. Community members got a virtual taste of what it was like to be a police officer on Monday with a public demonstration of the system.
sergeant. Matt Cassiere gave a pre-demo presentation on Monday and explained the importance of the system.
Originally priced at $95,868, Cassiere said the ministry acquired the system for $62,500 with some upgrades and a discount.
He said the system will be used for de-escalation training, use of force and community outreach. Cassiere explained that de-escalation using non-violent strategies and techniques is designed to lessen the intensity of a situation and get someone’s “voluntary compliance.”
He added that the system will help officers adhere to the state’s police accountability bill by ensuring that “the peace officer … has taken reasonable de-escalation steps before using a deadly physical force”.
Police Chief Brian Wright said that regardless of rank, every police officer has a responsibility to intervene when another officer crosses the line.
Cassiere said the system is not a game and the ultimate goal is to use it for educational and training purposes.
Officer Dave Diogo controlled the simulation from a separate room while the simulation officers stood in the community room where the sensors were located. Spectators could watch what officers saw on a screen but could not hear what was said to them. Through a headset, Diogo told them what they were encountering and then acted out the roles of the people they encountered.
Two security officers stood in the room with the simulation officers to make sure they didn’t run into anything.
Two members of the community were able to test the system and answer a suspicious call in an abandoned factory. The situation was one where the use of force was ultimately necessary.
Resident Samantha Ide took part and said de-escalation is the hardest to learn and that’s why the immersive experience is so important.
Cassiere said the department has had the system for about five months and conducted its first training in September. He said the plan is to do additional training and hopefully use it on a monthly basis, opening up de-escalation courses to other police departments.
During Monday’s session, some residents asked Police Chief Brian Wright what officers should do when they believe another officer is using physical force that is not warranted.
Wright said that regardless of rank, every police officer has a responsibility to step in when another officer crosses the line. In addition, the department investigates all incidents in which officers use force.
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