U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Virtual Reality Simulation to Enhance De-escalation Training for Police Officers

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $792,862)

This proposed project aims to enhance the de-escalation training curriculum of the Dallas Police Department (DPD) by integrating virtual reality (VR) technology. The goal is to rebuild public trust and improve relationships between the police and the community by equipping officers with effective de-escalation skills and reducing excessive use of force. The City is requesting $792,862 from the BJA FY23 Virtual Reality De-escalation Site-Based Initiative. The proposed project strengthens the City’s relationship with SMU and further builds upon the DPD's existing evidence-based de-escalation training. This aligns closely with the evidence-based ICAT and CIT curricula. In a recent randomized controlled trial researchers demonstrated that the ICAT reduced use of force incidents, citizen injuries, and officer injuries among trained officers, highlighting the strength and impact of the current training program. By integrating VR technology and conducting a randomized controlled trial, the project aims to further enhance the training and improve its outcomes. The project team is well-equipped to conduct the research, consisting of the Dallas Police Department, and researchers from Southern Methodist University with expertise in curriculum design, VR simulation, violence prevention, and program evaluation. Additionally, the Civilian Police Academy, an organization of community leaders, supports the project. 

To develop the VR training scenarios, the team will identify common scenarios that require de-escalation skills, such as encounters with individuals experiencing mental health crises. Existing data from the Use of Force Police Force Analysis System and input from stakeholders and trainers will enhance accuracy and relevance in the creation of virtual scenarios.  As trainees navigate through scenarios, the VR system will capture movement, decisions and actions and provide a dashboard of their responses, allowing for immediate analysis and feedback so that they may learn from their mistakes, and refine future responses.  The VR simulator and dashboard will be adapted and updated regularly based upon data-driven lessons learned. The project will employ a randomized control trial (RCT) to evaluate its effectiveness. The DPD trains approximately 150 new recruits each year in cohorts, allowing for randomization between the standard de-escalation training and the VR-enhanced training. This design ensures feasibility and enables a rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of VR simulations. 

The project will use a comprehensive evaluation framework, measuring knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy at baseline, conclusion of training, and after each training module. The occurrence of use-of-force incidents will be monitored in the field using the Use of Force Police Force Analysis System, along with performance reports from supervisors. With experienced trainers at the Dallas Police Academy, a robust research design and a capable team, the project aims to improve officer performance, promote community trust, and contribute to the larger goal of strengthening police-community relationships.

Date Created: September 28, 2023