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Use VR to prepare recruits for trauma of police work says chief

Days of taking new recruits to a post-mortem are thankfully over says wellbeing lead who suggests greater use of virtual reality to train new officers in coping with trauma.

Use VR to prepare recruits for trauma of police work says chief

Date - 23rd February 2021
By - Chloe Livadeas
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Lancashire CC Andy Rhodes was part of a panel discussion on promoting wellbeing as part of the Police Foundation's annual conference The Future Police Workforce.

He says he can see in new recruits that they’re far more self-aware, more reflective and have less stigma about mental health simply because of the society and education systems they’ve come through.

He said: “They are very aware of when things are affecting their emotions and moods. So they come and ask you questions like ‘So how do we get hold of some therapy?’ And you think ‘hang on a minute, this is day one!’

They also ask: “’Am I going to get a really nice line manager who’s going to look after me?" to which the reply is "we can’t guarantee that but we’ll do our best.”

He said when he joined the service 24 years ago new recruits were taken to a post-mortem to show them the harsh realities of the job. 

“This was quite a traumatic event in itself,” he said. “The whole culture around you going to it was not done in the right way. And over the years you get used to going to them, I’ve been to dozens, if not hundreds, and it becomes more of a professional endeavour than a traumatic event, so to speak.”

Speaking alongside CC Rhodes on the panel was Prof Cary Cooper CBE, Professor of Organisational Psychology, University of Manchester. He said in the private sector it was normal to do “work sampling” when recruiting, such as having a journalist applying for a job at a newspaper write something.

“It would be interesting if we did something like that for policing,” he said. 

CC Rhodes said there were “exciting” opportunities to expose recruits to trauma in a safe environment, such as through Virtual Reality (VR). One scenario he suggested was turning up at your first serious road traffic accident.

The fire services use VR quite extensively as part of recruit training but  generally in policing it is only being used for firearms and Taser training.

“I think there is a big opportunity with new recruits pre-deployment to introduce them to some of those experiences," CC Rhodes said. "I'd like to see that happen but we're not doing anything with it at the moment and it is still a pretty big shock I would imagine for a lot of people.”

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Mick Keyte - Mon, 08 March 2021