Hamilton Police Service Partners with Wilfrid Laurier to Introduce Mental Health Crisis Response Training Program

Hamilton Police VR Updated

Virtual Reality Training Developed in Partnership with Immersive Learning Company Lumeto

Hamilton Police will be stepping into virtual reality with the launch of a new Mental Health Crisis Response Training Program (MHCRT). The first in the province to offer the program, the training provides officers with scenario-based learning in mental health crisis intervention.

Led by Wilfrid Laurier University researcher, Dr. Jennifer Lavoie and Toronto Metropolitan University researcher Dr. Natalie Alvarez, the training was co-developed by Ontario-based community stakeholders, including people with lived experience of mental illness, advocates, clinicians, nurses, forensic psychologists, and Indigenous cultural safety and anti-discrimination experts, in partnership with police instructors from across the province.

“This program is the next evolution in crisis intervention training. Using Virtual Reality, our officers can participate in realistic situations and live scenarios like they are happening in real time. This allows officers to continue learning how to de-escalate more efficiently and compassionately,” says Staff Sergeant Dave Mackenzie.

The MHCRT was designed as a direct response to Paul Dube’s (2016) Ombudsman report, Justice Iacobucci’s report (2014) and numerous inquests into fatal police encounters calling for vast improvements to police training in mental health crisis intervention.

“Using virtual reality technology, trainees can step into highly immersive, and true-to-life environments reflecting settings familiar to police practice such as parks, private homes or emergency rooms. The scenarios depict highly authentic characters portraying a range of mental health crisis situations. Officers actively take part in scenario-based learning where they can repeatedly practice safe alternatives to the use of force in high-intensity crisis simulations,” says Wilfrid Laurier Professor Dr. Jennifer Lavoie.

The Virtual Reality training was developed by Toronto-based immersive learning company Lumeto. Lumeto’s platform, InvolveXR, is designed to standardize experiential training for cognitive skills while making it accessible for first time users. InvolveXR replicates life-like environments and includes adaptive characters allowing officers to practice and learn de-escalation skills in fully interactive, immersive open-world scenarios.  The system reduces live training costs, while being quickly deployable across locations and learners.

Last year, Hamilton Police responded to 5718 mental health crisis calls. Hamilton Police will incorporate the Virtual Reality MHCRT into the current Crisis Intervention Training. Presently, approximately 75 new members participate in Crisis Intervention Training every year.

“Hamilton Police aim to provide innovative crisis response training, which will ultimately allow us to provide a safer environment for persons in crisis as well as our officers during mental health crisis events,” says Mackenzie.