New London Police using virtual reality system to de-escalate conflict

New London Police Police Chief Brian Wright, center, talks with Brandon Gonzalez-Cottrell, commanding officer of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of New London County, as he and Samantha Ide, of New London, work through a virtual reality simulation. Demonstration of the Apex Officer Virtual Reality Training Simulator on Monday, November 28 at the department. The department is the first in the state to use a virtual reality simulator designed to improve de-escalation and use of force training. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Buy photo reprints
New London police officer Christina Nocito, from left, looks on as Sgt. Matthew Cashier places equipment on Officer Daquan Stuckey during a demonstration of the Apex Officer Virtual Reality Training Simulator Monday, Nov. 28 at the department. The department is the first in the state to use a virtual reality simulator designed to improve de-escalation. strength training. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Buy photo reprints
New London police officer David Diogo sets up a simulation during a demonstration of the Apex Officer Virtual Reality Training Simulator at the department on Monday, Nov. 28. The department is the first in the state to use a virtual reality simulator designed to improve de-escalation. Force training. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Buy photo reprints
Apex officer virtual reality training simulators are seen Monday, Nov. 28, at the New London Police Department. The department is the first in the state to use a virtual reality simulator designed to improve de-escalation and use-of-force training. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Buy photo reprints
New London Police Sgt. Matthew Cassier sets up New London resident Samantha Eide with a virtual reality simulator during a demonstration of the Apex Officer Virtual Reality Training Simulator at the department on Monday, Nov. 28. The department is the first in the state to use a virtual reality simulator designed to improve. De-escalation and use of force training. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Buy photo reprints
New London Police Officer Daquan Stuckey, from left, stands guard as Capt. Matt Galante assists Officer Christina Nocito in handcuffs as they work through a simulation during a demonstration of the Apex Officer Virtual Reality Training Simulator at the department. Dept. It is the first in the state to use a virtual reality simulator designed to improve de-escalation and use-of-force training. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Buy photo reprints
New London police Sgt. Matthew Cassier, from right, Brandon Gonzalez-Cottrell, commanding officer of the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of New London County, Capt. Matt Galante and New London resident Samantha Ide hold a virtual reality set. Apex Officer Virtual Reality Training Simulator Monday, November 28 at the Dept. The department is the first in the state to use a virtual reality simulator designed to improve de-escalation and use-of-force training. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Buy photo reprints

NEW LONDON – Police officers Daquan Stuckey and Christina Nocito responded to a domestic assault call Monday night.

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Except it was a simulation.

Wearing an Oculus-like headset and a computer unit behind her, Nocito participated in a simulation as part of de-escalation training. It was his first time using the device.

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“I had to get used to what I was seeing,” Nocito said. “I wanted to go down the stairs.”

Using a $70,000 grant from the federal Department of Justice, the police department was the first in the state to receive an APEX officer virtual reality simulator. Community members got a virtual look at what it means to be a police officer Monday with a public demonstration of the system.

Sergeant Matt Cassier led a presentation before Monday’s demonstration and explained the importance of the system.

Originally priced at $95,868, Cashier said the department received the system for $62,500 with some upgrades and discounts.

He said the system will be used for de-escalation training, use of force training and community outreach. Cashier explained that de-escalation using non-violent tactics and techniques is designed to de-escalate a situation and gain “voluntary compliance” from someone.

He added that the system will help officers comply with the State Police Accountability Bill by ensuring that “a peace officer … engages in appropriate de-escalation measures prior to the use of deadly physical force.”

Police Chief Brian Wright said that regardless of rank, every police officer has a responsibility to intervene when another officer steps out of line.

Cashier said the system is not a game and the ultimate goal is to use it for educational purposes and training.

Officer Dave Diogo controlled the simulation from a separate room while the simulation officers stood in the community room where the sensors were located. Viewers could see what the officers were looking at on the screen but could not hear what was being said to them. Through the headset, Diogo told them what they were facing and then played the role of the people they encountered.

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Two security officers stood in the room with the officers in the simulation so they didn’t run into anything.

Two members of the community got to test the system and answer a call from a suspicious person in an abandoned factory. The situation was such that the use of force was ultimately necessary.

Resident Samantha Ide participated and said that de-escalation is the most difficult to train and therefore the immersive experience is so important.

Cashier said the department has had the system for about five months and did its first training in September. He said he plans to provide additional training and use it on a monthly basis, opening de-escalation classes to other police departments.

At Monday’s session, some residents asked Police Chief Brian Wright what officers should do when they feel another officer has used physical force that is not justified.

Wright said that regardless of rank, every police officer has a responsibility to intervene when another officer steps out of line. Additionally, the department investigates all incidents in which officers use force.



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