The Edenton Police Department recently became the first department in North Carolina to buy and use the Vector Lew Enforcement Shield, a de-escalation tool.

About eight officers from throughout the region gathered in the Edenton Police Department’s training center as Robert Scalli, president and inventor of Vector Law Enforcement Training, and others on his team 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. Three officers in his department are undergoing training and will train the others on how to use the shield.

“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. The Vector Shield is about a third of the cost of the next ballistic shield and has a higher ballistic rating than most other shields and has training available. Most other shields do not come with any training.

Unlike the big, full-body shields you see on television during coverage of police and protesters, the shield fits on the forearm and weighs only 8 pounds. Think of it more like the smaller shield made by the Black Panther and scientists in Wakanda for Captain American in the Avenger film series. Unlike its bulky counterpart, the Vector Shield lends itself to small spaces and more practical applications.

Scalli, veteran Army Special Forces medic (18D), created Vector Police Shield and its De-Escalation Training Program. He attended Harvard University at night while raising a son and daughter. Scalli later was in charge of Steven Seagal’s close protection team.

“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. “Vector builds those better choices that work.”

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 provides a safety barrier for citizens.

During the training exercises, when Scalli started to introduce a scenario, the officers would chime in as how they would use the tool.

Elizabeth City Police Department Lt. Darrell Felton, who also acts at the agency’s field operations instructor, told the group that when Edenton Police Chief Henry King told him about the shield, he could already imagine several ways in which it could be used. Felton was accompanied at the training by acting police chief James E. Avens Jr.

While role-playing how to deal with a suspect with a knife, Scalli noted that the knife is the most dangerous weapons on the battlefield. 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 a chest — striking several vital veins — with one swing.

With the shield, an officer can get close to a knife-wielding suspect, lessening the opportunity for the suspect to attack others. It also gives an officer a chance to talk and de-escalate a situation. If a suspect stabs at them, officers 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 teach users that the shield is designed for guarding, not to hit. Vector does not advocate for guns in schools. The Vector Team advocates for shields to be used before aggressive weapons around children. Vector Shields and Vector De-Escalation training also are well suited for hospitals and psychiatric wards to safely handle patients who could be a danger to themselves or others.

The shield is made of AR600, 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.

The Vector Shield and training offers protection and safety to officers, the public and even family pets. The Vector Training curriculum instructs officers to de-escalate dog attacks in the safest manner possible for the dog and officer. If a dog is barking but may not attack, an officer protected behind a shield can make that distinction and more safely handle a dog.

Current riot, SWAT or entry shields available to police usually only fit in the trunk and most only stop handguns. The Vector Shield stores up front in a patrol vehicle so it is easily accessible and can even be used while driving if needed.

When worn on a sling and carried behind an officer, the Vector Shield looks just like part of an officer’s uniform thus reducing attention and aggression. Larger militant-looking SWAT, riot or entry shields garner unwanted attention and, more often than not, become targets for aggressive onlookers at which to throw projectiles. From a sling, the Vector Police Shield can be accessed in seconds at a riot.

In scenarios in which large shields are usually used, they can also be a hindrance. If someone doesn’t open the door all the way or it’s jammed, a large shield won’t fit through. Also, people have to go through a hall single-file, which can be slow.

During the workshop, officers noted how they could now go in two-abreast and deploy different techniques to secure the hallway.

They also learned how to handle pulling over vehicles. Since the shield fits on the forearm, officers can wear the device while having both hands free to gather the driver’s ID, insurance and registration.

Scalli said that in talking with various police departments throughout the country and world, no one has said they need more weapons.

“They want better ballistics protection,” he said. “This gives you protection while de-escalating the situation.”

Wendy Vogenberger accompanied Scalli. The G-licensed contractor in the state of Florida is a federal, state and local Vector Shield instructor and managing partner at Vector. She has worked with Scalli over the last five years to help develop manufacturing and to support in developing the Vector De-Escalation training curriculum.

“We love what we do. It’s not often you find a purpose in life where you can save lives, enjoy what you do and make communities safer at the same time,” Vogenberger said.

Before the Vector Shield and De-Escalation Training was developed, all most officers had to use to defend themselves were offensive weapons like a handgun or Taser. There was no real way to stop violence so an officer could react in a less aggressive manner. In using a Vector Shield, an officer’s vitals are protected so he or she is safe to talk to someone who might just be having a bad day or to see if a child has an Airsoft gun or a real firearm without the officer having to automatically resort to his or her weapon. The Vector Shield creates a “speed bump” that can slow down and reverse aggression. Vector is what’s known as a “sole source provider” and is the only company in the United States to manufacture, sell and train on these life-saving de-escalation tools.

Chief King invited Vector to join the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police. Thanks to his efforts, the efforts of Executive Director William H. Hollingsed and the efforts of Vector Representative Kristina Lorinc, Vector Police Shields will soon be utilized at departments across North Carolina protecting even more officers and communities.

Contact Nicole Bowman-Layton at nlayton@ncweeklies.com.