Rogers Police Department to buy virtual reality training simulator for up to $73,913

(File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

ROGERS -- The Police Department will soon buy a virtual reality simulator to train its officers.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the purchase of an Apex virtual reality training simulator from GOVRED Technology Inc. of Las Vegas.

Police Chief Jonathan Best said the department is the first in the region to use the Apex simulator, which will allow officers to do much more training at police headquarters.

Training technology supplier GOVRED sells virtual reality systems for use by both police officers and soldiers, according to the company's website. The system for police departments, called Apex Officer, includes training in firearms, crisis intervention, deescalation, active shooter threats, traffic stops and a variety of other scenarios.

The Apex system creates a more immersive environment than many other training simulators, according to Best.

"Traditional simulator training for law enforcement uses a screen or a series of screens to create the training environment," he said. "This vendor is unique in that they use goggles to create a 3D virtual environment for the trainer."

When using the technology, trainees wear a virtual reality headset, which covers their eyes. The headset includes a screen intended to provide the appearance of an immersive environment. Trainees can use modified firearms and stun guns in the sessions.

The department has heard "rave reviews" from other law enforcement agencies using the technology, according to Best.

The Apex simulator comes with 35,000 different scenarios, which are all able to be tweaked by the trainer, he said.

"In one scenario, the guy can reach into a car and pull out a gun. In the next one, the training operator can make him pull out a cellphone or a wallet," he said.

The department is allowed to use up to $73,913 for the purchase, which will include two headsets and accompanying equipment, he said. Funds for the equipment were accounted for in the city's 2023 budget, which was approved by the council in November.

The Apex Officer technology is currently being used by at least one law enforcement agency or department in every U.S. state, Apex announced in January. The Pulaski County Sheriff's Office became the first agency in Arkansas to use the system last July.

In other news, the council also approved a proposed adaptation of an empty building at 1639 N. Arkansas St. to a 12-unit multifamily rental development. Council members unanimously approved rezoning the property north of downtown from residential office zoning to residential multifamily rental zoning.