Greater Manchester Police is using virtual reality equipment to help train officers in understanding what victims of hate crime are going through.
The force has been working closely with Mother Mountain Productions to develop the new training project, named Affinity.
How does it work?
Officers don a virtual reality headset which transports them into the shoes of a hate crime victim. They experience three different scenarios based on real-life incidents:
Disability hate crime
Antisemitism which features themes of misogamy
Gender-based hate crime
Each video starts with an introduction from a real victim who has provided a first-hand account of what happened to them and how it made them feel.
The video then moves on to actors playing out the incident, with the wearer of the headset becoming the victim. The officer being trained takes on the victim's height, stance and, in the case of the disability hate crime incident, their visual impairment.
The third section of the virtual reality training explores two different responses from police officers - one in which the victim felt was good and another in which the victim felt could be improved.
GMP say aim of the training technique, which began its rollout in Spring, is to further equip officers with the knowledge and understanding of victim experience and to aid them in dealing with and responding to these types of crimes.
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: “GMP’s key aim is to make Greater Manchester a safe and pleasant place to live, work and visit. This is regardless of your background or identity.
“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.
“We are fully committed to investing in our officers and ensuring they are equipped with the skills they need to deal with incidents with confidence and understanding. This pioneering new way of training gives our officers a new perspective on hate crime, allowing us to give an improved level of service to the public, one which is truly victim focussed.”
Nidhi Sinha from Manchester Cathedral Challenging Hate Forum has welcomed the new project saying it was crucial for people to understand one another and feel empathy.