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Maryland State Police Implementing Virtual Reality Simulator To Help Train Troopers In Decision-Making During Various Scenarios

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It's a game-changer for law enforcement technology.

Maryland State Police is implementing a new virtual reality simulator system designed to help train troopers in decision-making during countless scenarios. The agency is one of the first in the state and region to implement this system.

"I think it's the wave of the future and you're going to see a lot of agencies using this," said
Cpt. Brian Smith, Commander of Education in Training Division with Maryland State Police.

The decision-making simulator system called Apex Officer uses virtual reality technology to immerse troopers in interactive real-life situations.

"It really works. It takes everything that you've learned in the six months of your Academy and applies it… your tactics, your after safety, your verbal judo, your de-escalation," said Cpl. Adam Merkelson, Maryland State Police.

The trooper being trained puts on a small backpack and a headset. They are provided a replica handgun and a multi-tool which represents the 'less lethal' tools they carry for Maryland state troopers.

"This is not a shooting simulator, we're trying to teach de-escalation, verbal skills and to show that if you do what you can do, you will limit and may not have to use force in any situation," said Cpt. Smith.

It's unlike any other training tool used before in the department. Through this virtual simulation, an operator on the other end places you in a scenario and is able to manipulate and control what the suspect is doing based on the trooper's action.

"This is training in decision-making that challenges the trooper with the reality of outcomes based on how they choose to handle the situation. The advantage is that the outcomes of the judgments made in this training are in a virtual world and, if needed, instruction about better approaches to a situation can be provided immediately. This technology reduces training personnel demands and provides portability and efficient use of training time," said Cpt. Smith.

Countless scenarios can be played out ranging from traffic stops to life-threatening standoffs -- something troopers are faced with on a day-to-day basis.

"It's an excellent opportunity to bolster our training curriculum with this," said Cpt. Smith

This training system is not only used to train the new class of recruits but seasoned troopers can also use the system at any time to brush up on their skills.

"The ability to be able to take it on the road, set it up in any room within 10 to 15 minutes and up and running scenarios is a huge advantage," said Cpt. Smith. "In our past, entry-level troopers in the academy would get the chance to use a simulator, a screen-based simulator but once they get out to the field, this type of training was hard for us to get to them because of our central location. Now we're going to be able to take that to the barracks and have them get this great training."



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