Police training goes mobile and virtual

Ground response force officer using a new mobile classroom.ST VIDEO: SEOW BEI YI
Police officers on omni-directional treadmills demonstrating simulation training with head-mounted displays at the Bedok Police Division on Monday. The set-up enables users to move around in a virtual world. Such training is increasingly becoming imp
Police officers on omni-directional treadmills demonstrating simulation training with head-mounted displays at the Bedok Police Division on Monday. The set-up enables users to move around in a virtual world. Such training is increasingly becoming important for the police force.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

It may resemble a regular lorry but at the push of a button, the Home Team Academy's (HTA) new mobile classroom (MobiC) opens up to occupy three carpark spaces.

MobiC can train front-line officers using virtual reality at any neighbourhood police centre.

Set to go on trial from September, it is among initiatives announced by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam at the academy's workplan seminar yesterday.

Mr Shanmugam stressed the need for effective training in the light of today's challenges - where officers face a pressing terror threat, increasing public expectations and growing manpower constraints.

A terror attack can take place very quickly,with little or no warning and result in the loss of many lives. This is the security environment we face and our training has to prepare officers for that, he said.

"We have to train people and we have to train people in the right environment. They must experience it," he added. This is where simulator technologies come into play.

"When they are faced with a real situation... their reflexes kick in."

In one of the MobiC's seven virtual scenarios, two policemen spot a suspicious man at an HDB coffee shop.

When they ask him to stay put, he tries to run, before turning around to point a gun at them. One of the officers fires his gun and the man falls as the other calls for back-up.

Front-line officers of the Bedok Police Division react to a training scenario of domestic violence in a new mobile classroom that is set to go on trial from September. It will use virtual reality to train officers at neighbourhood police centres. Bes
Front-line officers of the Bedok Police Division react to a training scenario of domestic violence in a new mobile classroom that is set to go on trial from September. It will use virtual reality to train officers at neighbourhood police centres. Besides exposing the officers to a range of scenarios, it allows immediate feedback. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

RIGHT TRAINING NEEDED

We have to train people and we have to train people in the right environment. They must experience it... When they are faced with a real situation... their reflexes kick in.

HOME AFFAIRS AND LAW MINISTER K. SHANMUGAM

Sergeant Anderitte Lim, 22, said of his experience with the MobiC: "HDB scenarios and coffee-shop scenarios are part and parcel of our daily job. But it is not every day that domestic disputes turn violent, so for us, it's a learning platform."

Officers now train through role play, and Sgt Lim believes that the new system will help reduce manpower needed for practice.

The MobiC, which can train 16 officers in 40 minutes, is set to go on trial at all six police land divisions for half a year.

Since it can be driven to the police stations, it minimises officers' operational down time.

The HTA will also roll out a Home Team Simulation System by next year. This virtual command post will train commanders and test their decision-making skills, said Mr Shanmugam.

Of the Home Team Training Transformation 2025, HTA chief executive T. Raja Kumar said that building a strong foundation for joint and integrated operations is a key focus as well.

Superintendent Tan Chi Chong, who is assistant director of the front-line policing division, said: "The scenarios are customisable, so if this proof of concept is well received by the officers, we will work with the respective agencies to see what best fits them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2017, with the headline 'Police training goes mobile and virtual'. Print Edition | Subscribe