RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s City Council approved a $125,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for a virtual reality simulator meant to help officers with de-escalation training.

The Richmond Police Department requested grant funding last year from the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) for a simulator to bolster its de-escalation training program.

“To provide responsive, comprehensive de-escalation training to every officer in our department as well as an array of local partners, the Richmond Police Department proposes to adopt Apex Officer, a virtual reality training simulator used by many police departments across the US, to grow our officers’ knowledge of and preparedness to use de-escalation strategies in the field,” the department’s proposal from July 2021 reads.

The DOJ informed the department in October 2021 that it had been awarded the $125,000 grant to pay for the new virtual reality system.

On Monday, the City Council voted to allow the city to accept the funding and appropriate the increase to the police department’s special funds budget for fiscal year 2022 as a result.

According to the proposal, the Richmond Police Department expects to use the virtual reality system for more than 40 hours a month and will require all officers who interface with the public to undergo training.

The department also plans to publish a report on the impact the training “has had on policing protocols and the necessity of force as well as its impact in community settings such as schools and youth centers where staff has also received Apex Officer training.”

The department added in the proposal that with it being “short-staffed,” the system would help training without additional personnel in a cost-effective method that wouldn’t “compromise the quality of training.”

“The Pro Training Simulator is an ideal tool because it offers a wide array of de-escalation training scenarios that mirror the experiences of RPD officers, ranging from large-scale protests to simple traffic stops to mental health crises, and requires minimal support staffing to facilitate training sessions,” the city administration’s recommendation reads.

Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. use virtual reality for training, including the Chesapeake Police Department, but Richmond’s proposal says the city’s department would be the first in central Virginia to use the virtual reality system for de-escalation.