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article imageVirtual reality headsets help police with autistic people

By Tim Sandle     May 26, 2019 in Crime
Technology firm Axon has developed new virtual reality headsets to be used by police forces in the U.S., designed to assist law enforcement officers with dealing with people with autism and schizophrenia.
For the first test of the new headsets Axon is working with the Chicago police. Axon will use the immersive technology to train officers in using the virtual reality headsets. The headsets contain programs which have been developed with mental health and autism experts. The headsets will be made available to any police departments across the U.S.
The headsets are designed to train officers in different scenarios. The headsets come with two training modules, one developed for people with autism and the second is for dealing with people who have schizophrenia. As an example, the autism training package contains as simulation whereby someone with autism walks out of a store without paying for the goods, and is then confronted by an angry storekeeper, who then contacts the police. Instead of showing the events from the perspective of the police office, officers experience the situation first from the point-of-view of the autistic person.
The other VR training program is designed to better equip officers with the tools to deescalate situations involving people suffering from mental health issues, crises or psychotic episodes.
The company behind the development - Axon - is perhaps best known for developing the taser (originally the Tom Swift Electric Rifle). Axon is Scottsdale, Arizona-based company which develops technology and weapons products for law enforcement and civilians. Other products developed by Axon include body worn cameras, digital evidence management, together with the better known electroshock weapons.
Commenting on the development, Laura Brown, Axon's Sr. Director of Training states: "There's no one-size-fits-all strategy for responding to calls for service in the field. The more police officers understand what people are experiencing during a crisis, the more they can adapt their response to effectively de-escalate the situation and protect lives."
Understanding both autism and mental health issues is important, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson tells ABC News. The office recounts: "When I was out on the street I would say that anywhere between ... 45 percent and maybe 55 percent of the people that I encountered on the street in an arrest situation or a disturbance situation had some type of mental health challenges -- whether it was autism, bipolar, schizophrenia, you know -- all those things factor in to people that the police encounter on a daily basis."
More about Schizophrenia, Autism, Virtual reality, Police
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