Pilots train on simulators, why shouldn’t police officers too?

Singapore has taken the gamification concept into public safety. Its Home Team Academy (HTA) is combining real world and virtual scenarios to give the best possible immersion for domestic security forces.

With many high profile summits in the nation such as the Trump-Kim summit, the annual Formula One, and the Shangri La Defence Dialogue, it’s vital to stay on top of the latest threats. GovInsider looks at how Singapore’s Home Team built this cutting-edge system.

How it works

The Home Team Simulation System (HTS2) is the first training platform in the world to combine live and virtual elements to train security officers. It provides a highly immersive experience – letting officers train in a physical setting with personal workstations and built-in communication systems running the simulation. Background images used in the virtual simulations are designed to mimic real-life surroundings as closely as possible, featuring lifelike local landmarks.

The system uses real-world incidents to make the training even more relevant and realistic. Trainers have the flexibility to match the difficulty and complexity of a scenario to specific training objectives, depending on experience levels. The system also reacts to each decision the officers make within a training scenario, giving them different outcomes and adapting.

What’s happened so far

HTS2 has trained more than 1,000 officers across four government agencies: Singapore Police Force; Singapore Civil Defence Force; The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority; and Singapore Prison Service.

The system “complements conventional training methods such as table-top exercises, which have limited realism, and ground deployment exercises which are more resource-intensive,” said Poon Ngee, Deputy Director of the Centre for Home Team Skills Transformation (Home Team Simulation System) at HTA.

The traditional table-top exercises are conducted in classrooms; while ground deployment exercises require a lot more time and manpower.

Virtual reality cuts out weeks of preparing for on-the-ground training, which means training exercises can be conducted more frequently. And the system can accommodate officers of different levels in each session, making it more efficient to train batches.

Poon adds that it enables greater collaboration between different Home Team Departments. This is important for responding to real-life crises, which often involve coordination between multiple Departments.

Best risk

How did they build it? With so many different uses, the developers had to make sure their system was flexible. “In designing HTS2, we had to ensure that the software catered to the needs of all the Home Team Departments and the rooms in the centre are fully configurable to meet the different layouts required,” said Poon. Home Team officers were included in the design process, and this helped the developers to understand their training needs.

Innovation is always a risk in public safety, where training has to be effective so that lives can be saved. The safety of a country’s people hinges on its security officers’ preparation, and the Home Team Academy were moving away from approaches used across the world.

In recognition of their work, the Home Team Academy won Best Risk award at the GovInsider Innovation Awards 2019, held at the United Nations Conference Centre. The awards were presented by Jonathan Wong, Chief of Technology & Innovation, UNESCAP for Asia Pacific and HRH Princess Sikhanyiso, Principal Princess of the Kingdom of Eswatini, Minister of Information & Communication Technology and Honorable Senator.

“We are honoured to be recognised for our innovation efforts. Innovations such as the HTS2, enable our officers to train realistically in a safe environment, and equip them with the skillsets to continue keeping Singapore safe and secure,” said Clarence Yeo, Chief Executive at the Home Team Academy.

This system is the first in the world for virtual reality police training. But where risk takers lead, others will surely follow.