Thousands of police officers in Greater Manchester are experiencing what it's like to be a victim of hate crime through the use of VR headsets.
The brand new training project, which is the first of its kind in the UK, is designed help officers understand and emphasize with victims by transporting them into their shoes.
They experience three different scenarios from three different victims - which are all based on real-life incidents that took place in Manchester and weren't reported to the police.
The three videos focus on disability hate crime, anti-Semitism with features of misogyny, and gender-based hate crime.
The Manchester Evening News went along to GMP's training centre in Prestwich to try on a pair of the virtual reality goggles.
The anti-Semitism video begins in a synagogue where a young woman, the hate crime victim, gives you her first-hand experience of what happened and how it made her feel.
It feels incredibly real and you can move your head to see all around the room. But with the woman looking directly at you, and being so close up, there's no way anyone taking part in this experience could turn their attention elsewhere.
The video then moves on to actors playing out the incident, and as the wearer of the headset, you become the victim.<
All of a sudden you take on their height and stance. And in the case of the disability hate crime incident - their visual impairment too.
This allows officers to fully immerse themselves in how it feels to be a victim of such an abhorrent and impactful crime.
The third section of the virtual reality training shows two different responses from police officers – one which victim feedback said was a good response and one that victims felt could be improved.
Inspector May Preston said that previously, officers were educated about hate crime in the classroom.
"We wanted something much more interactive where the victim's voice can really be heard," she said.
Officer Marcos Ennau trying out a police training VR headset (Image: Manchester Evening News) Inspector Preston, who was the hate crime lead, said that that transgender and anti-Semitism hate crimes were chosen for the VR experience because of a spike in numbers; whereas disability-based hate crime was focused on because it's so underreported.
"Most often victims don't realise they're victims of hate crimes," she said.
She said that she hopes this new form of training will help officers to understands victims of hate crime and in turn - that those victims will be more willing to come forward if they know that they will be listened to and believed.
Although the three VR videos focus of three different specific types of hate crime there is overlap into other perspectives too that officers can benefit from.
"One senior officer said he never knew what it was like to be a 5'4 female before. He had never had that perspective before," Inspector Preston said.
Greater Manchester Police worked closely with the non-profit Mother Mountain Productions to develop the VR training.
Gary Clifford, the operations director, said "Most people are telling us that they benefitted from the experience, like they were living in the shoes of the victim."
GMP and Mother Mountain Productions took guidance from partners such as The Proud Trust, The RNIB, The Campaign Against Anti -Semitism, Trans Forum and The Community Safety Trust, to ensure that the training encompassed real victim’s experiences and was an effective and relevant tool of learning for officers.
GMP’s ACC Chris Sykes said: “The impact of hate crime on the victim can be wide-ranging and life-changing. We know that hate crime is still under-reported, but by equipping our officers with the empathy and understanding towards victims, we can ensure that we take the correct actions when dealing with these incidents, sending a message to victims that they will be supported and treated with respect and showing offenders that there is no room for hate or discrimination in our vibrant and diverse city.
Source: 18 Aug 21
Ed- Not much about anglophobic attacks there is there?. 'Vibrant and diverse' - you ae welcome to it. My advice - head for the hills.