Training Police with Virtual Reality

While most police officers don’t find themselves in “use-of-force” situations on a daily basis, the UT Institute for Public Service works to prepare officers for the day they do.
A close up of a police officer drawign a simulated weapon in a V R hostage situation

Through a virtual reality simulation offered as part of an eight-hour training program by the Law Enforcement Innovation Center, police officers in Knoxville and across the country are put through real-life scenarios ranging from active shooters to hostage situations.

Wearing sensors and carrying actual guns converted to lasers, officers walk into a space encircled by 300 degrees of screens, each 10 foot by 8 foot. Projectors play out one of 148 scenarios and officers’ reactions are tracked and recorded. The trainer running the simulation can escalate or de-escalate the situation depending on the officer’s verbal and physical responses. An electrical shock is delivered if the officer is shot by asuspect, and a full assessment is available at the end of the simulation.

In 2019, police officers shot and killed 956 people, according to a Washington Post database. The training offered by UT gives officers the opportunity to practice their skills and decision-making abilities before they encounter such situations in real life.

“We hope officers never find themselves in this situation, but we also know it’s a sign of the times we live in,” said Rick Scarbrough, executive director of the Law Enforcement Innovation Center. “With this simulator and the expert instruction, we are equipping officers to handle these situations in the best way possible.”

Rick Scarbrough
Rick Scarbrough
two police officers use a virtual reality simulation while observers record their movements