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GRPD utilizes virtual reality for training

Two GRPD officers utilize Axon virtual reality equipment for training purposes.
David Limbaugh
Two GRPD officers utilize Axon virtual reality equipment for training purposes.

The Grand Rapids Police Department is using some new tools to train its officers.

The new Axon virtual reality system, or VR, is designed to help put officers into the shoes of those they are sworn to protect and serve.

“It puts you into the envelope of you’ve got that diagnosis, so you’re the schizophrenic and you’re interacting with police officers, and some of that sight and sound deprivation, with those disorders that people have, and then you come back as a police officer and you’re working through the problem.”

David Siver is a Captain with the Grand Rapids Police Department.

“This really paints a picture and kind of lets you learn from a quicker experience than having to maybe sit through an 8-hour training block day, where this could be 15-20 minutes.”

The VR headsets come with about 24 preprogramed, immersive scenarios. It’s 360-degree sights and sounds create simulated environments from dealing with suicidal individuals, to people with autism, to de-escalation of a domestic situation. Bluetooth-equipped tasers can also interact with the headsets for targeting training.

Siver says this type of training will never take the place of real-world training, but some of these experiences are better served through a VR delivery system.

“We want to constantly improve and find weaknesses in our training to prevent a tragic outcome, right? You see it almost daily around the country, and with the 2020 riots, I think every agency, every police officer is judged by the same light, right? No matter if you’re a California police officer or New York City or Grand Rapids.”

Dave joined WGVU Public Media in November of 2023 after eighteen years as a Michigan Association of Broadcasters Emmy-nominated photojournalist and editor at Grand Rapids' WOOD TV8 and three years at WEYI TV25 in Flint, Michigan. As a General Assignment Reporter, Dave covers daily news and community events all over West Michigan.
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