An officer training using a VR headset with police blocking a protest in the background

8 Uses For Virtual Reality In Law Enforcement

Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using virtual reality (VR) as an effective way to improve their sevice. The technology is relatively new, but there is huge potential for police departments to use it in various ways.

This guide explores eight innovative uses for virtual reality in law enforcement and how it’s making our streets safer. We also run through the pros and cons of using VR in policing.

How is virtual reality used In law enforcement?

Virtual reality can help the police force provide its community with a better service. Crime scene reconstruction, officer training, collaboration, and recruitment can all make good use of this technology.   

1. Crime scene reconstruction

Crime scene investigations are complex procedures that rely heavily on small details. It isn’t easy to accurately reconstruct what happened. Using virtual reality, investigators can recreate crime scenes with greater precision and better understand what happened or why it happened.

Data is collected from video surveillance footage and other sources like GPS tracking devices and eyewitness accounts. This information is then inserted into a 3D model of the scene so that investigators can virtually walk through the crime scene.

New investigators on a case can quickly get up to speed on the details of the crime. Reopened cold cases will also be much easier to review. Instead of sifting through countless reports, newcomers can slip on a headset and review the case details from their office.

A police detective reconstructing a crime scene using virtual reality technology
VR has huge potential for recreating crime scenes.

2. Officer training

Police officers require extensive training to do their job well. Virtual reality provides a realistic, safe environment for officers to experience scenarios and practice their skills. Learning in a virtual world means no safety risk for the rookie police officer or the public. This tech is already put to good use in the military.

VR training helps officers become more familiar with different types of high-risk situations. This includes responding to active shooters, de-escalating tense situations, conducting searches, and handcuffing suspects. Common uses for VR within police training include:

  • Experience realistic scenarios without the risk of injury or fatality.
  • Practice decision-making skills in life-like environments.
  • Understand what it feels like to be confronted by an armed criminal.
  • Improve tactical decision-making under pressure.  
  • Gain confidence and develop assertiveness.
  • Learn how to de-escalate high-risk confrontations.   
  • Receive performance feedback after each simulation.
  • Experience custom simulations based on individual department needs. 

To learn more about how VR helps train police officers, check out this video which looks at how the LAPD is using the technology.

3. Collaboration

Virtual reality has enormous potential for collaboration between law enforcement organizations worldwide. Police personnel can gain valuable experience working together in challenging environments. These skills could prove invaluable when responding to threats across jurisdictional boundaries.

VR simulations allow agencies to share best practices within their own locales and abroad. It helps build stronger relationships between departments worldwide. 

4. Recruitment

The law enforcement recruitment process is challenging due to the number of people needed and the geographical area to cover. VR has made this exercise more efficient.

Potential recruits can learn what life is like on the force before committing. Participants at job fairs and recruitment drives can experience hostage negotiations, crowd protests, crime scenes, and much more. From discovering what life is like as an officer walking the beat through to CIA and FBI agent work, VR provides a better understanding of what the job involves.

VR can reach a lot of potential candidates – it also helps weed out unsuitable candidates in the early stages.

Potential candidates from remote areas can take part in initial interviews remotely. This tech encourages more people to apply and makes for a more efficient recruiting process.

Also, check out our article on some applications for VR in recruitment.

5. Rehearse complex procedures

VR helps rehearse complex procedures like weapon maintenance or defusing explosives without the attached risk. CIA covert operations into enemy territory can be rehearsed, allowing agents to familiarize themselves with streets, natural formations, and building layouts.

6. Investigative interviews

Virtual reality is likely to become a powerful tool during investigative interviews. It allows investigators to guide witnesses through simulated versions of an incident. By immersing witnesses in a completely realistic environment, investigators gain more insight into what happened than through traditional questioning techniques.

VR may yield better results than traditional face-to-face encounters. Virtual interviews have many benefits, including less intimidation for witnesses, improved recall capabilities, and potentially greater accuracy.

7. Medical help

Virtual reality technology is more than just useful for training police officers. There is huge potential for medical research purposes. Harvard Medical School has developed a VR system to help diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries.

This may have significant implications in helping officers who have PTSD and related mental illnesses.

Learn more about how VR is helping the medical industry here.

8. Negotiations

When it comes to virtual reality simulations for police negotiations, there is no limit to the types of scenarios instructors can create, from negotiating with armed robbers or drug dealers, to managing hostage takings or active shooter situations.

Instructors can customize scenarios based on specific needs or challenges their class might face while in the field.

An officer training at home using VR
Officers can practice negotiations in their own home.

What Is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality is an artificial environment created with software and hardware that simulates an actual or imagined situation. It immerses users in a digital 3-dimensional world where they can interact with their surroundings using input devices like motion sensors and hand controllers.

VR is also used in architecture, sports, and education.

Benefits of virtual reality for policing

  1. Real-life training without the associated risks.
  2. Training is available 24/7 for police officers.
  3. Reduced cost of recruitment and training.
  4. Better solutions for helping PTSD patients.
  5. Reduced risk of liability cases.

Potential drawbacks

  1. Cost: The initial investment of VR headsets and the associated software is costly. There is also ongoing maintenance, upgrades, and content creation to consider. 
  2. Lack of realism: A major drawback associated with virtual reality for police training is its lack of authenticity compared to real-world environments. As the tech progresses, this will become less of a pitfall.
  3. Desensitization: Excessive reliance on virtual reality simulations could desensitize officers.

Final words

Virtual reality will become an invaluable tool for law enforcement agencies. It can help accurately reconstruct crime scenes and provide extensive training scenarios without putting officers in real danger.

Agencies will be better equipped to solve crimes faster and more efficiently. Indirect benefits of VR include medical assistance and recruitment.

While the potential for virtual reality is exciting, there are still limitations to its current uses. As hardware becomes more powerful and new software is developed specifically for law enforcement, expect its use cases to increase.

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