Proper training for today’s police officers
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Recent events involving law enforcement officers have shaken the nation, and they have brought the need for modern police training methods to the forefront. The editorial board at The Washington Post highlighted the fact that departments across the country are reviewing this need and assessing the kind of modern tools and technology they can add to their repertoire.
It is not just police shootings that have elicited the review, but also the need for officers to know how to handle explosive situations. There has been noise about changing the simulator-based training to augmented and virtual-reality technology. These can be practical approaches to train officers and help them in explosive situations like a riot or a terrorist act.
Contrary to what most people believe, these emerging technologies are not expensive. When you place them against the advanced training and preparation that officers will get, they become even more affordable.
High-tech goggles offering the sights and sounds of 360-degree immersion can help one gauge the extreme stress of a given situation and assess the various ways to respond without exacerbating the danger. But that's not all.
Virtual-reality headsets can allow a middle-aged white officer to see himself as a young African-American man in the mirror. This may go a long way to containing racial bias and fostering empathy. He can see himself as a nervous young man or a differently-abled individual facing an agitated officer.
A large part of the protests against police today is based on how they treat minorities and mentally ill individuals. They are ill-equipped and untrained to deal with or discern the nuances of these situations, leading to simple situations turning volatile and controversial.
Changes in policies and fundamentalism is not enough. What is needed is the modernized training that will help new generation of officers handle street encounters in a smart and knowledgeable manner. Innovative approaches to policing means increased awareness, more empathy, enhanced tools and training that will focus on both protection and use-of-force training.
Modern training involves smarter policing techniques, beyond the technology. States like California and Florida — which have seen unprecedented terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando, respectively — have also sent delegates to Israel for counter-terrorism training.
The Israel Police are generally known for being one of the best forces to deal with terror situations, based on the unique threats they face every day. As part of the delegation, members of the American police were privy to advanced training techniques that will help them face and deal with the increasing threats of domestic terrorism.
Utah is one of the forerunners in adopting virtual-reality technology to train officers in de-escalation techniques. The funds for the new training center help both the metro cities and smaller, rural police forces around the state, who could otherwise ill-afford this advanced training.
Millions of dollars in lawsuits involving police missteps are pending across the country. Investing in innovative training techniques that will help the police be more effective and bridge the yawning gap between them and the communities they protect may be more cost-effective.
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