120 officers visited the initiative ahead of Autism Acceptance Week.

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher was among 120 PSNI officers who have participated in a virtual reality initiative aiming to improve understanding of autism.

The Training 2 Care UK Autism Virtual Reality Experience Bus is an initiative developed by those with autism which immerses users through the journey of being brought into custody with flashing lights, noises and sensory aspects such as smells and textures.

Those participating were observed by a trainer who took them through a lengthy debrief afterwards to assess their reactions and explain the reasons for how the experience worked.

Organisations including prison authorities and schools have previously taken part, but PSNI is believed to be the first police force to do so.

CC Boutcher said those with autism have been “failed” in the past due to a lack of understanding of such conditions.

He said the PSNI took part in the training because its officers “are here to look after everybody”.

“You can’t do that unless you walk in other people’s shoes from different backgrounds, cultures and disabilities,” he told the PA news agency.

“Autism, Asperger’s, these are conditions that for most of us, are things that we read about in newspapers, but we have to deal with people who are going through crises, and to have an experience such as I have just had, that gives you a very brief glimpse into the world who people who suffer from autism experience, can only help our officers understand what people are going through, that they would otherwise have no clue.

“It was incredibly disorientating, really challenging. It gave us a very brief glimpse into the world that many people have to endure and that will make them better police officers, and help them deal with people who have to go through that every day of their life.”

Temporary Superintendent Finola Dornan, who chairs the Police Autism Support Group, said there has been a “phenomenal response” from the officers who went through the training.

“It’s been really positive, they see the value in terms of their policing practice, so that’s hugely important and for us it is really rewarding,” she said.

“As the Chief Constable has said, we’re here for a really wide diverse range of people, and that’s not easy for frontline practitioners so everybody who have come has been really grateful for the training and has engaged really positively in it. I have no doubt they’ll go back to police stations right across Northern Ireland and put this into practise and share their learning with their colleagues.”

The PSNI has also been working with Autism NI.

The group’s chief executive, Kerry Boyd, said she strongly welcomed the PSNI taking part in the initiative.

This article was originally published by Cachella Smith on Police Oracle. Read the original article here.