(WSYR-TV) — Mental health crises are a major concern for communities nationwide, especially for police. According to reports, at least 25 percent of deadly police encounters involve someone with a mental illness. 

To give insight on how to respond to these incidents, the Syracuse Police Department has a new high-tech tool.

This tool includes virtual reality training, headphones, and goggles, which suddenly immerses you in realistic-fraught scenarios. 

You are in another world, right, and you look 360 degrees around you and it’s a completely different environment.

Sgt. Jason Tom, Head of In-Service Training and Recruitment, Syracuse Police Department

A certain scenario could be a young man suffering a schizophrenic episode, and you experience what he sees when police approach. 

“I never imagined what it would be like to be schizophrenic, who can hear voices in their head and the fact they can’t necessarily hear or understand when an Officer is giving them verbal commands to do something,” Sgt. Tom said.  

The training module then switches and you’re the Police Officer responding, prompted with options on how to handle the situation. 

“Our situations are rapidly evolving and they can turn violent at a snap of the finger, so we have to be super vigilant, we also have to understand and acknowledge, we’re here to help someone that’s in a crisis. Where can you see what it’s like to be in the shoes of someone who is having a crisis?” 

The tool not only puts the police in the shoes of others but also in the mind of someone in emotional or mental distress.  

Sgt Tom says that he doesn’t think this tool will replace what they are doing, but it is an added benefit.

Syracuse Police have put over 200 Officers through training with Axon’s VR Simulator. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, you can call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at their new number, 988.