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Wichita Police to Test VR Training Tech, New Taser

The Kansas police department has plans to test a virtual reality training simulator and a new taser. The training software has the potential to make the training process more efficient.

(TNS) — Wichita police are wanting to test a virtual reality training simulator and a new Taser, with plans to implement them department-wide if the tests are successful.

Officials from Arizona-based Axon Enterprise were in Wichita on Tuesday presenting its products to the department's highest-ranking officers.

Police Chief Joseph Sullivan said the new Taser 10 is safer for both officers and the suspect and the virtual reality would cut down on taking officers off the street for long periods of time for training.

Sullivan said they use the current Taser "pretty frequently."

The police department currently uses Axon's body cameras and an older model of its Taser.

Sullivan is also looking to also expand the department's body camera footage capabilities to include off-duty officers working security. That is in response to a fight between an off-duty officer working security and a 16-year-old at a south Wichita roller rink late last year, he said. The officer was wearing a police uniform but no body camera.

It's not clear what the exact cost would be if the Police Department decides to implement the new Tasers, virtual reality and expand its body cameras. The Taser 10 retails for around $2,000 each, but unlike their firearm, officers share the Tasers. The department currently has 361 tasers.

It also costs around $20 per officer per month for the virtual reality, which would be around $144,000 a year for the roughly 600 officers on patrol who would use it.

The department is nearly midway through a $617,000, two-year contract with Axon for Tasers, body cameras and associated "software/equipment and support for these items," police spokesperson Trevor Macy said in an email.

A timeline for testing and final decisions is not clear.

"We're always going to be open to looking at any type of new technology that gives our officers another opportunity to keep themselves safe, to keep the public safe and to not have to transition to lethal or deadly force," Sullivan said.


The Police Department first started using equipment from Taser International, now Axon, in 2005. The department upgraded at least one other time before getting its current model, the Taser X2.

Axon account executive Jeff Bolthouse said the new Taser 10 has been tested for less than a year by four departments: two in Florida, including one in Seminole County; Boulder, Colorado; and he believed an agency in Arizona.

It's been 98% successful when deployed, he said, although he was unsure how many times it's been used.

The Taser X2 has a 69% success rate, he said, with the majority of the misses being attributed to clothing impacting the prongs, bounce offs, or the prongs not spreading far enough.

That rate is what drove some of the changes for the Taser 10. Here is how it compares with the department's current X2:

  • 10 prongs, fired individually, instead of the two deployed during a single shot of the X2. Sullivan said a miss with the X2 can then require the stun-gun-like feature on the Taser to be used. The feature doesn't cause the physical seizing up that the prongs can, which means it doesn't end the threat as easily, he said.
  • Its 45-foot range is roughly double past Taser products. At 205 feet per second, it is faster, meaning more penetration, than past Taser products.
  • Upgraded digital display, battery and software technology. Batteries on the X2 were thrown away once they ran out. The Taser 10 is rechargeable and the charging base also acts as a place to update software and features on the Taser.

Bolthouse said most major cities use the company's Tasers.

The company's market share is so large that in 2021 the Federal Trade Commission took antitrust action against it after Axon purchased a rival body-cam company. The company responded with a lawsuit.


Sullivan said current training requires officers to spend hours off the street at the Wichita Sedgwick County Law Enforcement Training Center on Wichita State University campus. It's where the presentation was Tuesday.

And for understaffed departments like Wichita, an Axon official said, that usually means other officers working overtime to cover while they undergo training.

These virtual reality headsets could be used by officers at their bureau, Sullivan said. Other simulators, Axon officials said, need large spaces, lots of high-tech sensors and other equipment and often leave one officer training while others watch. But this allows multiple officers to train in a small space with the headgear and simulation weapon, they said.

It costs about $38 for each Taser cartridge, meaning it is not possible for officers to train with hundreds of rounds, an Axon official said. Virtual reality allows for unlimited practice.

"Repetition is important," Sullivan said. "This would give us the opportunity, without really having a negative impact on manpower on street."

Axon officials said they are constantly adding different training scenarios. Equipment will also be updated with the subscription, they said.

Axon officials had also brought with them a police vehicle outfitted with its dash cam and license plate readers. Sullivan said the department is not currently interested in that.

©2023 The Wichita Eagle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.