A software company is partnering with the Schenectady Police Department and community leaders to develop a virtual reality training program to mitigate real-life police community interaction.
The Schenectady Police Department has teamed up with Catapult Games, which is based in the city, in launching a project that will employ highly adaptive simulations to train officers and other first responders in tactics aimed at de-escalating challenging police-civilian interactions. Chief Eric Clifford demonstrated the technology, donning 3-D Virtual Reality goggles through which he made decisions using two hand-held game controllers in moving to de-escalate a hypothetical situation. Clifford expects this type of training eventually will cover everything officers do.
"They're going to be able to either practice something that they just trained for in real life training, or, maybe evaluate a call that they were on previously or another officer was on previously, in the form of now a de-escalation, like 'how would you have done this?' so that we could learn, almost like reviewing game film, if you will, we'll go through scenarios, maybe ask them to be developed based on real life situations, and say, 'what would you have done' because we do that now, we'll talk about an incident, what happened at our lineups. We talked about what happened in Rochester, with that child in the car, and we talk about it not to not to second guess the officer, but just to talk about 'what we would we have done here' and let's make sure that, you know, should that scenario happened in our community. This is how we would respond to it."
Gabriel Langlois is Lead Developer at Catapult Games.
"We went through public body cam footage of incidents like George Floyd, we went through body cam footage of incidents that go well, we go, we go through lots of different public available information. And then on top of that, the chief has offered to provide us with scenarios that kind of the breakdown, where they go up, go into the footage afterwards and see, what should the police officer have done here? What should they have done there, and basically use that source material to really inform the scenarios we're creating, in order to produce something that's not only realistic, but that has actually happened."
Langlois says Catapult is working with public records and body camera footage to create real-life scenarios. However, they'll also be working directly with the Schenectady Police Department and the community during this phase.
Langlois says developers will ride along with police and use community experiences to build the program. William Rivas, Executive Director at COCOA House, says the project is good for the community.
"It's good to see Schenectady Police Department and the city of Schenectady, partnering with Catapult Games, who I've had an opportunity to meet with various projects to urban co works. And to see that, you know, we're continuing to lead the way in regards to policing. The city of Schenectady. And SPD has kind of shown in the last few months that it has a commitment to change and innovation. And I'm really excited to see the outcomes of this project and how the community can interact with this."
Catapult Games is funding the initiative and plans to have a working physical product in play in about six months.