Virtual Reality simulator trains officers in de-escalation

Published 12:20 pm Wednesday, February 16, 2022



Staff Report

Cordele Assistant Police Chief Jeremy Taylor tried on a virtual reality headset that the department will use to train officers how to de-escalate situations using diplomacy rather than a gun.

The $62,500 machine made by GOVRED, a Nevada technology company that specializes in building virtual reality training technology for the military, law enforcement and first responders. A Law Enforcement Training Grant funded it.

“De-escalation training teaches officers to slow down, create space and use communication techniques to defuse a potentially dangerous situation,” Chief Mike Hathaway said. “Some departments saw an 18 percent drop in use of force the year after it instituted de-escalation training. Since 2010, excessive force complaints there have dropped by 83 percent.”

The user straps on a computer the size of a standard book bag. Cables stick out of almost every corner of the bag and attach to a helmet-like thing. As soon as the helmet is on, the participant is transported to a very realistic, albeit virtual street scene or front yard or deserted steel mill.

“This can be programed to produce almost any situation,” Hathaway said. “The officer is transported to any type of place there could be a call.”

Training will begin  in several weeks.


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Beal-Shephard tries to weather the storm over City HallBy Neil B. McGahee Managing Editor Cordele City Commissioner Vesta Beal-Shephard was elected in 2001 to represent the people of Ward One. By all accounts, she has done a very good job of relating to the citizens living in her ward. Recently, however, a dark cloud has settled over City Hall. From the first day of his term, newly-elected commission chairman Joshua Antwan Deriso began taking verbal snipes on social media at some of the other commissioners. Shephard says she just ignored it at first but on April 9, Deriso posted on Facebook “…It was much anticipated for Comm. Rainey to be against change. Comission (sp) Shephard fights against me the hardest…does not know much about government at all…She needs to be voted out next year 2023.” A few days later, he posted live saying …“I am totally over the games, the political stuff…a lot of people want to make what I said about Commissioner Shephard something about disagreement with Commissioner Shephard. It was her ignorance and short-sightedness…not able to understand what we can do as a government. “When there were people in charge that didn’t look like us…white people… she didn’t question anything. Since I became chairman, she has blocked everything…you don’t know what you are doing; you don’t know what you are talking about.” Shephard winces as she listens to Deriso. “I don’t do drama and I don’t do pettiness,” she said. “I refute everything he has said about me. I’m not angry with Josh; I am somewhat disturbed that he has targeted me, a citizen of Cordele; a black female…he accused me of loving white folks. Well I do love white folks, and brown folks and black folks — Haitian, Jamaican, Indian, Cuban, Mexican — I have no discrimination to anyone. My job is to facilitate for people in this ward and when I vote, I vote my conviction.” Shephard said she doesn’t know why Deriso has such hard feelings against her. “It’s so sad, I have to say that I never saw it coming,” she said. ”But I have to voice my opinion.” But one sad thing has evolved from this. “This is the first time I have been discriminated against by a fellow commissioner,” she said. “I used to invite people to my home if they had a problem. But I had to stop that. If you want to meet with me, we will have to go to a public area or to my office at city hall. I am going to keep my distance for the simple reason that I don’t want to endanger myself.