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Sandburg to invest in virtual reality system for criminal justice students

Carl Sandburg College
Courtesy photo
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Carl Sandburg College
Carl Sandburg College will use a grant from the Illinois Community College Board for a police training simulator. The grant is to help ease workforce transitions for criminal justice students.

One of the benefits of the simulator is the opportunity for students to repeatedly practice de-escalation techniques in a safe and controlled environment.

Criminal justice students at Carl Sandburg College will soon be stepping into virtual reality to become better law enforcement professionals.

The community college’s Board of Trustees approved the purchase of an Apex Officer Pro Training Simulator that will take students through various officer-involved situations.

Dr. Chris Barber, coordinator of Sandburg’s criminal justice program, said the simulator has students wear backpacks that communicate with devices set up around the perimeter of a room.

They also wear duty belts that hold all the normal tools that officers would have in the field.

“You are carrying everything that an officer would,” Barber said.

But it’s in a virtual world with virtual suspects, working through virtual scenarios from traffic stops to domestic violence calls to active shooters.

“While the student is going through the scenario, I can manipulate the suspect,” Barber said. "The officer can call out commands to that suspect, and then I can have that suspect react, based off those commands.”

One of the benefits of the simulator is the opportunity for students to repeatedly practice de-escalation techniques in a safe and controlled environment.

Barber said it trains officers to use the right language and demeanor to reduce the potential for higher levels of force to subdue a subject.

“In law enforcement, you deal with the mentally ill quite a bit. And sometimes words that you say or how you say them can trigger somebody to react negatively,” Barber said.

Virtual reality can also help students decide if law enforcement is truly the right career path for them.

The system is being funded by a $100,000 Innovative Bridge and Transitions grant from the Illinois Community College Board. The grant’s focus is easing workforce transitions for Sandburg’s criminal justice students.

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