Local police get hands-on experience with new VR training technology

PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) — Local law enforcement on Tuesday tested new virtual reality training technology, aimed at improving their split-second decision-making.

APEX Officer is a new tool used at the Central Illinois Police Training Center at Illinois Central College. The training works much like a virtual reality video game, but the scenarios are fully customizable.

It’s designed to put agents in real-world, interactive situations, forcing them to make the same split-second decisions they might have to make on the job.

“You can do any scenario you want. You want a guy with a knife, a guy with a gun, you can create a domestic situation,” training center director Brian Fengel said.

A simulated scenario could take place in a busy grocery store, apartment complex, or even a correctional facility. A live trainer can place obstacles, control suspicious behavior and even have a conversation with the trainee.

“[It’s] pretty realistic,” LaSalle County Sheriff’s Deputy John Samaniego said. “Elevated heart rate, elevated breathing, and the thought process kicks in automatically. You have to be two or three steps ahead of what’s going to happen to try to be prepared for what might happen.

Nearly 100 member agencies across the region will have access to the new technology. Fengel says advanced technology will help officers better defuse situations and save lives.

“You can never get enough training,” Fengel said. “We are always training to improve law enforcement.”

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