Winter Haven Commission Embraces VR in Law Enforcement Training

The Winter Haven City Commission has taken a step towards modernizing its police force, endorsing a new virtual reality (VR) training system aimed at improving officer interactions with individuals experiencing mental health crises or cognitive disorders. This initiative was among the top issues addressed in the recent City Commission meeting, which also covered enhancements to the city’s water tanks, updates to the transportation network, and discussions on various grant opportunities.

During the meeting, the VR training system for law enforcement officers was a focal point. This innovative tool is designed to provide realistic scenarios for dealing with individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia, mental health issues, and autism. It allows officers to experience interactions from both the officer’s and the individual’s perspective. The system also includes taser training, negating the need for the actual discharge of tasers, which adds a layer of safety and cost-effectiveness to the training process. The Commission considered the financial implications of the new training system, with the cost estimated at 1.83 million over five years, entailing annual payments of $236,748.

The meeting further delved into the city’s infrastructure, with discussions on the necessity for repairs and repainting of various ground storage tanks for water resources. The Commission reviewed an update on a design criteria for the Water Resource Facility Wastewater Treatment Plant 3.

Additionally, the Commission engaged in deliberations on the aesthetic enhancement of the city’s water tanks and the extension of a lease agreement with Richards Fine Coffees.

The city’s transportation network was another key topic, with the development of a vision zero plan to ensure a safe transportation network. The Commission explored grant opportunities to fund this initiative, including the Safe Streets for all Grant—a Federal Grant requiring a 20% match and potentially providing $100,000 if awarded. They also discussed the community planning technical assistance grant, which could award up to $775,000 with no match required.

The meeting addressed a resolution to modify the voting membership of the Polk Transportation Planning Organization, proposing to increase Winter Haven’s voting representation from two to three permanent members. This change reflects the city’s growing influence and the desire to have a stronger voice in regional transportation planning.

Infrastructure discussions extended to an easement tied to water infrastructure for the Pros Winter Haven Apartments, voluntary annexation of a parcel for future development, and a budget amendment for the Winter Haven Rec Center project. These items underscored the Commission’s focus on strategic growth and community development.

The Commission also planned for an upcoming construction open house for Lake Conine and deliberated on the cancellation of agenda reviews scheduled on June 19th and July 3rd, due to employee holidays and events.

This included a dialogue with the airport director regarding the Sun ‘n Fun event at the Winter Haven Regional Airport, touching on safety measures, fuel sales, and the completion of the South apron ramp project. The Commission discussed the weather’s impact on airport operations and how the control tower managed a runway closure during an incident lasting three and a half hours.

In addition to the VR training system, the consent agenda reviewed by the commissioners included a traffic agreement for the Ruby Lake Homeowners Association and an agreement for roof repairs at the police department.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Nathaniel J. Birdsong, Jr.
City Council Officials:
Nathaniel J. Birdsong, Jr., Brian Yates, L. Tracy Mercer, Bradley T. Dantzler, Clifton E. Dollison, Amanda Jo Nicholson (Assistant to the City Manager)

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