Police drivers may hone their skill on simulators

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2014

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It's not quite Grand Theft Auto, but police drivers may soon take a leaf out of video gamers' books to hone their skills.

Police are putting the feelers out for state-of-the art driving simulators - saying they are needed to improve officers' roadworthiness.

But at what cost, and how many, is yet to be determined before the idea can get the green light.

Lockheed Martin, the global security and aerospace company behind the Royal New Zealand Air Force's five Hercules turboprop aircraft, has been contracted to help with the selection.

Police recruits currently use specialised racing circuits and on-the-job training to ready them for real-world driving - which can mean high-speed pursuits.

But the skill level required for urgent driving has put the idea of virtual reality training on the cards, national road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths said.

The simulators are being mulled to add to the Professional Police Driver Programme, which was introduced in 2004.

Police this month called for expressions of interest from suppliers able to produce the simulators.

Police College recruits currently hone their skills on a specialised B-shaped racing circuit at their Porirua training facility.

They are expected to attain at least "bronze" level for urgent driving before they can graduate to become constables. Police hopefuls who attain higher grades during the nine-day training or later in their careers are considered skilled enough to perform pursuits.

Their training on that track, which includes a slippery surface to mimic poor weather conditions, trains them in manoeuvres such as navigating out of skids, vehicle stop tactics, and tactical pursuit situations.

Virtual reality simulators would help police learn skills beyond the racing circuits, Mr Griffiths said. That included tricky technical driving for pursuits.

"There are some things, situations, in urgent driving that you can't reproduce on the road or on a racing circuit but that we can reproduce in a driving simulator."

Recruits and officers already on the job would be expected to use the simulators for training. Police could not discuss the amount of money set aside for the gadgets at the pre-tender stage as it was commercially sensitive, but the money would come from police operational budgets, Mr Griffiths said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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