The Battle Creek Police Department will usher in a new era of training in the coming months through the use of virtual reality headsets.
The department is set to receive four virtual reality headsets and 57 Tasers as part of a $ 338,380 non-lethal equipment and training package unanimously approved by the Battle Creek City Commission Tuesday.
“With ever increasing demands being placed on law enforcement the department has been looking for alternative means of training beyond traditional methods,” Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker wrote in a memo to commissioners. “Traditional means of training can have a significant impact on operations, requiring several officers / blocks of hours and is course specific.”
The virtual reality headsets will place officers in a multitude of different training scenarios, ranging from de-escalation to an active shooter “with endless variations based on the officer’s actions,” according to Blocker.
The virtual training can be completed in 20- to 30-minute sessions with one or two officers and a proctor, limiting the overall impact on operations while also allowing for more expansive and continuous training, Blocker explained.
“Those goggles are going to provide for us the opportunity to simulate not just dealing with the mentally ill, not just dealing with folks with PTSD, not just dealing with aggravated subjects or folks that want to resist, but also a full spectrum of opportunities where officers can immerse themselves and then make appropriate decisions and take the right tactical approach, whether it’s de-escalating and providing time and distance or otherwise, “Blocker said during Tuesday’s meeting.
The approved package will also substantially upgrade the department’s Taser equipment. The department currently owns just 19 Taser devices, many of which have outlived their warranty / liability coverage, according to Blocker.
The 57 new Tasers will help continue a successful program in the department, Blocker continued, acknowledging Tasers have proven worthwhile not only in terms of limiting injuries to citizens and officers, but also in serving as a valuable tool in the de-escalation process.
During a March 1 City Commission workshop on the proposed equipment upgrades, Deputy Chief Troy Gilleylen reflected on an altercation with a suspect in the early 2000s where a Taser would have been useful.
Gilleylen said he was attempting to apprehend a combative suspect accused of selling drugs when his right arm got caught in the suspect’s jacket. Gilleylen ended up tearing his rotator cuff in the exchange, an injury that ultimately required surgery.
“This is why this program means so much to me,” Gilleylen said. “I really feel that back then, if I would have had a Taser, that Taser would have given me an additional tool to deal with that situation, to render myself safe, and to bring him into custody without additional use of force that may have been unnecessary. “
Contact reporter Greyson Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-501-5661. Follow him on Twitter: G_SteeleBC