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Pascagoula Police Department adds virtual reality training program

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 7:32 PM CST
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - The Pascagoula Police Department is getting real about virtual training.

For about a week now, officers have been testing the waters in believable make-believe, so they are even more prepared to handle real-world scenarios.

Thursday was officer Anthony Vail’s initial attempt at virtual reality training.

His first assignment: to deal with an intoxicated woman in a grocery store.

“It felt real,” he said. “As real as it can get.”

The Apex Officer simulator has about 15 to 20 environments.

“You have an alley, you have a city, you have a correctional department, an apartment, an abandoned factory,” said Capt. Chris Weeks as he showed off the program.

And it has seemingly endless scenarios. “You can deal with subjects with mental illness, you can deal with intoxicated subjects,” he said. “You can do domestic violence. You can do a traffic stop.”

That will be a situation on which Weeks, who is the training coordinator, will concentrate. “Traffic stops are one of the things that officers do more than anything,” he said.

De-escalation is a top priority.

“That’s one of the main things why we bought the equipment in the first place,” Weeks said. “Officers can practice these de-escalation techniques here in a safe environment. Safe for them, safe for the citizens.”

The ongoing training will eventually involve every officer in the department.

Officer Vail said it’s needed especially for the young officers. “You’re going to have adrenalin rushes especially with stuff you’ve never dealt with before,” he said. “This puts them in the situations. That way, when they actually do encounter these in the real world, it keeps them calm. They know how to react. They don’t overreact and do something they shouldn’t.”

The training program was funded by money seized by the narcotics task force.

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