EDENTON — The Edenton Police Department recently became the first law enforcement agency in North Carolina to purchase the Vector Law Enforcement Shield, a tool its creator said is designed to help officers de-escalate potentially violent situations.
About eight officers from across the region gathered in the Edenton Police Department’s training center as Robert Scalli, president and inventor of Vector Law Enforcement Training, and other Vector employees walked them through various training scenarios. The officers will undergo additional training to eventually teach others how to use the device.
Edenton police Chief Henry King said his department bought three Vector shields and three officers are receiving training to use them.
“It’s all about de-escalation,” King said, noting that the shield doesn’t look as militaristic as other tools police use.
Each de-escalation shield with accessories — a cover made of ballistics material and an clip to attach a light source — costs $1,311.
Unlike the big, full-body shields you might see on television during a police response to protesters, the shield fits on the forearm and weighs only 8 pounds.
Scalli, veteran Army Special Forces medic, created Vector Police Shield and its De-Escalation Training Program.
“I would rather see an officer de-escalating a potentially dangerous situation with words and one of our shields than with a baton, pepper spray or a gun. Sometimes violence can be avoided with better choices,” Scalli said.
The Vector Shield is a patented police shield and defends against bullets, projectiles, knives, machetes, bats, bricks, needles and animals. It is patented by Sunstein Law in Boston. The shield provides an officer protection while at the same time providing a safety barrier for citizens.
During the training exercises, officers would chime in as how they would use the tool.
Lt. Darrell Felton, the field operations instructor for the Elizabeth City Police Department, said when King told him about the shield, he could already imagine ways it could be used. Felton was accompanied at the training by Elizabeth City’s deputy police Chief James E. Avens Jr.
While role-playing how to deal with a suspect with a knife, Scalli noted it can be one of the most dangerous weapons officers can encounter. It is silent, anyone can buy it, and can be a danger if an officer gets too close. Unlike a bullet that just makes one hole, a knife can cut from the top to the bottom of its target’s chest — striking several vital veins — with one swing.
With the shield, an officer can get close to a knife-wielding suspect, reducing the opportunity for a suspect to attack others. It also gives an officer a chance to talk and de-escalate a situation. If a suspect tries to stab an officer, the officer can use the shield to block the attack, and possibly disarm the suspect.
“Instead of drawing a weapon, you can deploy the shield,” Scalli said. “You can move to a safe position and use communication to close the distance and de-escalate the situation.”
He emphasized that the company teaches users that the shield is designed for protecting, not for striking. He said Vector Shields are also well suited for hospitals and psychiatric wards to help staff manage a patient who might be a danger to themselves or others.
The shield is made of AR 600, a high-carbon steel backed with padding that absorbs some of the shock from a blow. It also has a hollow handle and an adjustable strap system, that can be customized to the officer’s preferences.
A cover is available that is made of ballistic canvas. It can be designed to include a custom design, such as a police department’s logo or a stop sign. It uses 3M reflective material that “lights up a dark room,” when a light is shined against it, Scalli said.