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OU creates virtual program for law enforcement

By Kyle Nichols

Staff Reporter

Ohio University’s Voinovich Academy for Excellence in Public Service, a program of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, is building a virtual reality program for Appalachian law enforcement agencies and officers to build public trust and safety which should deploy this summer.

John Born, executive-in-residence at the Voinovich School and Scripps College of Communication, said law enforcement leaders in southeast Ohio will be working as advisory groups to develop content and input from diverse perspectives.

“I spent 32 plus years in public safety and law enforcement. In all of those years, I’ve gotten pretty familiar with law enforcement and public safety, and I have not personally witnessed something so impactful as what virtual reality can deliver,” Born said.

Born said the virtual reality scenarios were developed by people that work in law enforcement and health professions.

“You are looking at a relatively short period in the goggles and then they are speaking with a supervisor or someone in the mental health field. The scenario could be a person in a domestic disturbance or a vague dispatch call. How that law enforcement officer deals with that, what they see when they walk in,” Born said. “This is not a tactical simulation, it’s about judging all the factors, keeping yourself safe and all the people around you safe.”

Born said virtual reality will be a low cost way to deliver highly impactful training to Appalachian law enforcement agencies and officers.

“Time-frame wise you aren’t taking a police officer off of a shift. You can be really effective within minutes,” Born said.

The Voinovich school virtual reality program will begin in Athens County, and Born said the program will spread out to the contiguous counties and adjust based on feedback.

Born said the program will build trust between the Appalachian communities and law enforcement.

“This program isn’t something you would want to do without collaboration,” Born said. “Really at the heart of it, the absolute common number one goal is safety. Everyone wants to be safe.”

Born said Appalachian counties will display for the rest of the country the power of the virtual reality program.

“This is an opportunity for Appalachia to show the rest of the country that we have an innovative approach,” Born said.

Kyle Nichols may be reached at knichols@newsandsentinel.com

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