SYKESVILLE, Md. — A Maryland state trooper receives a call for help.
“It’s in reference to an intoxicated individual,” they’re instructed over the radio. “He’s apparently outside the bar.”
The recruit is only armed with a backpack, a headset and a replica weapon.
“Apparently, they won’t let me back in the bar,” the man says on a virtual screen, “Look, I’ve got to pay my tab inside and they won’t let me back in.”
“We’ll talk to the bar and see what we can do about that, but in the meantime, let’s get you a ride home, okay?” responds the recruit.
No, this isn’t a shooting simulation.
It’s about making good decisions.
The Maryland State Police are believed to be the first agency in the region to use the Apex Virtual Police Simulator where an instructor in one room can interact with a trooper outfitted with high-tech equipment in another to create almost a limitless number of scenarios with the goal of heading off violent confrontations before they ever happen.
“Sometimes in these situations, there’s no force at all used. You’re using good verbal de-escalation and the scenario ends, and that’s what we want,” said Maryland State Police Capt. Brian Smith. “And then sometimes, the instructor may have somebody pull a knife, have somebody pull a gun. He controls if they’re going to listen and drop that knife or listen and drop that gun or there may be where force may need to be used by the trooper in that scenario.”
At a time when some are calling for a defunding of police, the agency used $110,000 in state money to purchase the system, which can be transported from one barrack to another across the state.
“A huge advantage for the Maryland State Police is with us being stretched from Garrett County and Deep Creek Lake to Ocean City, the problem with a screen-based technology is everybody would have to drive to a central location to use it,” added Smith.
No, this isn’t about shooting subjects when law enforcers no longer have a choice.
“You said you were going to give me a ride,” the virtual drunk says to the recruit.
“Not with a knife in your hand, Mr. Ripley,” counters the trooper. “I need you to drop the knife.”
It’s about diffusing the situation before they have to pull the trigger.