Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: Virtual reality training simulator coming to Spotsylvania law enforcement academy


Thanks to a local public outreach initiative led by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a virtual-reality police training simulator will soon be part of the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy’s curriculum.

“This is going to be new, state-of-the-art,” said Mike Harvey, executive director of the academy. “Nobody in our region has this yet.”

Last spring, the U.S. House of Representatives allowed members of Congress to submit Community Project Funding requests for the next fiscal year for consideration. Soon after the announcement, Spanberger’s office put out a call on social media seeking input from community leaders in all 10 counties of the 7th Congressional District.

“I went to their informational meeting and Spanberger said they were trying to get award funding for each one of the municipalities that she represents,” Harvey said. “I put together a proposal.”

After President Joe Biden signed the federal omnibus spending bill late last month, Spanberger announced close to $7 million had been secured for several local projects.

“Spanberger has been very responsive,” Harvey said. “She’s been down here to the academy for two or three tours.”

Harvey said he plans to purchase the Pro Training Simulator made by Apex Officer, a Nevada company. Harvey said the virtual-reality training simulator is a significant upgrade from traditional 180-degree police simulators, where a training scenario is projected onto screens with an instructor seated nearby. In those simulators, Harvey said the training is good, but the system has its limitations.

“It’s very static,” Harvey said. “There are only certain things that the system is going to respond back to, because it’s already canned, it’s programmed.”

In the new simulator, Harvey said trainees will wear VR goggles with audio to become immersed in a realistic virtual environment that has endless possibilities, including real-time interactions with motorists on the street.

“The avatar on the traffic stop is the instructor responding for the avatar,” Harvey said. “So it can really get into a lot of de-escalation and how do we talk to people, why do we talk to people this way.”

Harvey said he believes good communications skills between officers and the public are important and said the new VR simulator will greatly enhance the learning experience for all junior officers before they graduate and begin working in the field.

“We can do the tactical training, the firearms training, we can do defensive tactics training, but until they’re really able to put those skills into effect using their communications skills, it doesn’t mean much.” Harvey said.

Since 1978, the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy in Spotsylvania County has trained an average of 120 entry-level law enforcement officers each year, along with an equal number of corrections officers. The academy supports 2,200 officers across the region who return to the academy on a regular basis for continuing education courses or other training throughout the year.

Recent Posts

Feb 23, 2024
Local Issues

Spanberger, Garbarino Lead Bipartisan Bill to Track & Report Tick Bite-Associated Condition, Alpha-Gal Syndrome

The Congresswoman’s “Recognize AGS Act” Would Direct HHS to Make Alpha-Gal Syndrome a Nationally Notifiable Disease WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Andrew R. Garbarino (R-NY-02) introduced bipartisan legislation to allow for greater monitoring and reporting of alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) cases by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alpha-gal syndrome […]

Feb 22, 2024

Spanberger Urges Health Insurers to Fully Cover Birth Control, As Required by the Affordable Care Act

This Effort Comes After Years of Systemic Noncompliance by Insurance Plans & Women Paying Out of Pocket or Facing Administrative Red Tape to Access Birth Control WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today joined more than 150 U.S. House and U.S. Senate colleagues in urging health insurers to improve access to birth control by […]

Feb 21, 2024

Spanberger Announces Sixth Annual Congressional Art Competition, Invites Virginia High School Students to Submit Artwork

The Winner’s Artwork Will Be Displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building for One Year Alongside Winners from All 50 States WOODBRIDGE, Va. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today invited high school students from Virginia’s Seventh District to submit original artwork for the annual Congressional Art Competition. Every year, Members of the U.S. House of Representatives […]