PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – In a police operation, a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death for suspects, the innocent and public security agents working the streets.
Brazil’s public security forces have increasingly invested in new technologies to develop their agents’ reaction times in dangerous situations.
A project by researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), for instance, aims at understanding the functioning of a security agent’s brain.
The goal is to train agents’ reactions and teach them how to avoid making wrong decisions, which often are made in less than a second.
But virtual training simulators already are a reality in Brazil’s police forces. The equipment is used to prepare law enforcement agents who fight crime on the streets.
For nearly five years, Military Police in the state of Rio Grande do Sul have used simulators to train officers.
It’s the officers’ final test before hitting the streets.
The simulator features almost 80 situations – each one having three different endings.
When stepping into this virtual world, a police officer views a crime in progress, like a car theft, a hold-up or a kidnapping.
“The decision made at the moment of shooting means the difference between life and death,” says Uilson Miguel Miranda do Amaral, director of Education at the Rio Grande do Sul Military Police. “In the simulator, the professional can fail and begin again as many times as it takes until he learns.”
New system adopted in Rio de Janeiro
Since January, Rio de Janeiro’s police also have used the virtual world to teach them how to do their jobs.
The system comprises five screens, and the agent ultimately has to deal with what’s happening on each of them.
Initially, the officer is shown one scene of a crime. But to pass the test, the officer must follow proper protocol as the crime is played out in real time – exactly how it would happen in reality – across five screens. Officers are taught to pay attention to their surroundings, as well as to the criminal.
“They find a number of situations to be solved, many times facing three or four thieves,” says Antonio Carlos Cristino, from the Coordination of Resources of Rio de Janeiro Civil Police. “It’s an amazing tool, in part because it gathers very realistic elements, like sounds of helicopters and dogs.”
The equipment has been tested by instructors and trained officers.
But soon, all officers will be trained using the simulator.
“The simulator allows them to understand the concept and then experience it in practice,” says Chief Officer Jéssica Oliveira de Almeida, who also is the director of the Rio de Janeiro State Police Academy (Acadepol). “That helps to reinforce the learning.”
The simulation’s goal is not to improve officers’ shooting skills, but to aid them in the decision-making process – like knowing the proper time to use deadly force.
Julita Lemgruber, the coordinator of the Center for Studies of Public Security and Citizenship at Candido Mendes University, says technology is an ally in training.
Lemgruber points out intelligence centers, which just now have been implemented in some Brazilian states, should be widely adopted by the country’s security forces.
“States like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais are starting to implant intelligence centers,” she says. “Having departments able to carry out the data bank analysis and back the police officers who are in the streets is a great improvement.”