Hamilton Police to add virtual reality to mental health crisis training program
Published May 11, 2022 at 11:02 am
The Hamilton Police Service is introducing a virtual reality component to its mental health crisis training program.
The training provides officers with scenario-based learning in mental health crisis intervention. Using virtual reality, trainees can step into highly immersive, and true-to-life environments reflecting settings familiar to police practice, such as parks, private homes or emergency rooms.
“The scenarios depict highly authentic characters portraying a range of mental health crisis situations,” says Wilfrid Laurier professor, Dr. Jennifer Lavoie. “Officers actively take part in scenario-based learning where they can repeatedly practice safe alternatives to the use of force in high-intensity crisis simulations.”
Led by Dr. Lavoie and Toronto Metropolitan University researcher Dr. Natalie Alvarez, the training was co-developed by Ontario-based community stakeholders, including people with lived experience of mental illness, advocates, clinicians, nurses, forensic psychologists, and Indigenous cultural safety and anti-discrimination experts, in partnership with police instructors from across the province.
“This program is the next evolution in crisis intervention training,” says Staff Sergeant Dave Mckenzie. “Using Virtual Reality, our officers can participate in realistic situations and live scenarios like they are happening in real-time. This allows officers to continue learning how to de-escalate more efficiently and compassionately.”
The mental health crisis training program (MHCTP) was designed as a direct response to Paul Dube’s 2016 Ombudsman report, Justice Iacobucci’s 2014 report, and numerous inquests into fatal police encounters, calling for vast improvements to police training in mental health crisis intervention.
The Virtual Reality training was developed by Toronto-based immersive learning company Lumeto. Its platform, InvolveXR, replicates life-like environments and includes adaptive characters, allowing officers to practice and learn de-escalation skills in fully interactive, immersive open-world scenarios.
The system reduces live training costs while being quickly deployable across locations and learners.
Last year, Hamilton Police responded to 5718 mental health crisis calls.
“Hamilton Police aim to provide innovative crisis response training, which will ultimately allow us to provide a safer environment for persons in crisis as well as our officers during mental health crisis events,” says Mckenzie.
Presently, approximately 75 Hamilton officers participate in crisis intervention training each year.
Halton Police introduced a similar program in 2019.insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising