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GREENFIELD, Ind. — When it comes to being a police officer, Greenfield police (GPD) say more than 80% of their job comes down to talking to people. GPD has begun training their officers de-escalation skills through virtual reality.

“It allows us to put our officers in multiple scenarios in completely different environments in a matter of minutes,” said GPD Captain Chuck McMichael.

The training began this spring and immerses officers in life-like scenarios. Depending on the officer’s responses to situations, trainers can alter how the subjects in each incident respond. Officers have both a virtual pistol and a taser. If the scenario calls for it they may have to deploy one. The goal is to resolve the situation with calm and clear directives, however in some instances officers only have moments to react.

“Sometimes de-escalation skills are not going to work, and you have people who are set on doing bad things. Sometimes using force of some type, or whatever level, is going to be necessary to resolve those situations,” explained Captain McMichael. “In those high stress situations you are going to respond how you did last time, or how you trained the most. So how do they talk to people? Just give them an opportunity to practice some of those skills.”

The courses happen at Evolution VR in Greenfield. GPD was hoping to start this training a year ago, however they had to halt for the pandemic. In addition to being an arcade, Evolution VR is a certified ILEA training location for law enforcement officers. Operations Manager Samuel Montgomery has been through the training himself. He says it gave him perspective on how difficult an officer’s job can be.

“In the scenario I was in, the gentleman had pulled out a weapon and went after the officer. I’m not a police officer by no means, and I shot him,” said Montgomery. “I turned around and there was a little kid in the room that was not there when it first started that saw me, and my heart sank.”