According to a 2022 report for the American College of Emergency Physicians, 55% of
physicians taking the survey said they have been physically assaulted while at work, and 79%
have witnessed an assault. Unfortunately, violence and threats are common in medical facilities,
and security must be prepared to protect healthcare providers.

Most hospitals employ a security team, and like traditional law enforcement officers, hospital
security must undergo effective training to perform their duties proficiently.

VirTra is a company that provides advanced training simulators to law enforcement, military,
security, education, and medical industries. Hundreds of organizations across 40 countries use
VirTra simulators. Ascension St. John is the first private healthcare facility to obtain a VirTra
simulator.

The Ascension St. John Health System currently employs over 40 security officers trained in
security procedures, communication, de-escalation, and active shooter events. The safety of
their patients, guests, and associates is a top priority, so these officers must be prepared for
active threats, even if they occur infrequently.

In 2022, Ascension St. John Health System secured the VirTra simulator through the FEMA
Nonprofit Security Grant Program, a program designed to promote emergency preparedness
coordination and collaboration among public and private community representatives and state
and local government agencies. Healthcare industry facilities services provider, Medxcel,
facilitated the grant application, procurement, and installation processes.

“As part of our emergency management program, we help our healthcare locations apply for
federal grants that help pay for damages after a disaster, grants that help reduce risk, such as
hazard mitigation and security grants, and manage the required paperwork and reports.”
explained Scott Cormier, Vice President of Emergency Management, Environment of Care, and
Safety at Medxcel. “In the past six years, we’ve received approval for over $110M worth of
grants. These grants are even more important as healthcare systems continue to recover from
the worldwide impact of COVID-19 and find capital funds are limited.”

The three-screen VirTra V-180® decision-making simulator was installed in January 2024,
allowing users to practice for many interactive scenarios reflective of real-life situations. The
simulator features a large library of scenarios that offer various pathways to resolutions.
Scenarios pivot based on the officer’s responses, and actions and numerous training points can
be covered, including contact and cover, mental health/autism awareness, crisis de-escalation,
active threats, and many more.

Dynamic decision-making scenario-based training allows the security team to practice
numerous skills in a safe environment. Before receiving the simulator, Ascension St. John
Health System security officers would train in a classroom, practice handcuffing techniques or
spend time at a shooting range.

“We can implement frequent training in scenarios representing our environment. This is a
tremendous asset and allows all security officers within the Ascension St. John Health System
to ensure patient and associate safety.” Darrel Long, Director of Security for Ascension
Oklahoma stated.

Not only will the security team benefit from this system, but other staff members will be able to
experience situations, potential outcomes, and de-escalation techniques. By understanding the
possibilities of what could occur and how to respond, the rest of the hospital team can see how
the actions employed by the security team ensure a safe environment.

About VirTra, Inc.
VirTra (Nasdaq: VTSI) is a global provider of judgmental use of force training simulators and
firearms training simulators for the law enforcement, military, educational and commercial
markets. The company’s patented technologies, software, and scenarios provide intense
training for de-escalation, judgmental use-of-force, marksmanship, and related training that
mimics real-world situations. VirTra’s mission is to save and improve lives worldwide through
practical and highly effective virtual reality and simulator technology. Learn more about the
company at www.VirTra.com.

About Medxcel
As the largest sole provider of healthcare facilities services in the U.S., Medxcel delivers
operational savings, reduces supply chain costs, and increases compliance scores by
optimizing current resources and improving the overall healthcare environment.

About Ascension St. John
Ascension St. John operates six hospitals and more than 90 healthcare clinics and facilities in
eastern Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas. Ascension St. John employs approximately 4,500
associates. In fiscal year 2023 (July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023), Ascension St. John
provided more than $79 million in total community benefit and unpaid costs of Medicare
services, including care of individuals living in poverty. Serving Oklahoma for 98 years.
Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate,
personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most
vulnerable. Ascension is one of the leading non-profit and Catholic health systems in the U.S.,
operating 2,600 sites of care – including 142 hospitals and more than 40 senior living facilities –
in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Download a pdf copy here:

Virtra_ASJ Case Study 2024

When it comes to policing, communication should not be overlooked as one of the primary training points officers must receive. The flexibility of simulation training can easily provide first responders with options for soft skills training.

You may know of VirTra as the pioneer of the 5-screen simulator. The company is once again venturing into new simulation territory as it has developed the V-XR® extended reality system. This solution stands out among other law enforcement training headsets due to its use of 3D characters. Instead of CGI generated images and characters, those used in V-XR scenarios are created with volumetric capture. This allows users to distinguish facial expressions and other non-verbal cues, plus eliminates the uncanny valley that other CGI-based headset solutions give users.

The primary focus of this new training is on communication, de-escalation, mental illness, situational awareness, community engagement, and autism awareness. All these topics are of great interest to law enforcement agencies around the country and can help both save lives and establish greater trust within their communities.

 

Educate, Experience, Engage

The V-XR utilizes three concepts of learning: Educate, Engage, and Experience. Each concept provides information on a topic for well-rounded training. In the end, the headset-based V-XR places officers into a realistic scenario to practice the skills they have learned.

“Education” provides officers and trainees with an enhanced lesson plan with voice, images, and videos. This style of explicit learning is far more immersing than textbook and lecture learning provided in a traditional classroom setting.

The next concept of training in the V-XR headset is the “Experience.”  After learning from previous concepts, officers using the V-XR will participate in a scenario in a virtual V-300 with rounded screens. Crystal clear imagery and wraparound screens allow users to feel as if they are really part of the scenario being played before their eyes.

The final is “Engage,” where officers will interact with volumetric video characters right in front of them. Unlike CGI characters, you can see their facial expressions to determine if the subject may be prepared to attack or become aggressive. You can spot little details like whether someone has a gun hidden under their shirt. It is also possible to walk around them as if they are truly a person standing before you.

Learn More About Our Solutions

VirTra provides much more than just hardware. Our content is the heart of our training, which is why each scenario, volumetric character, and curriculum is extensively reviewed and tested by our subject matter experts.

The V-XR is available for pre-order and will be available March 2024. To learn more about our newest addition to the product line, contact a specialist. 

Think of how many people a day officers interact with. Being able to effectively communicate, read body language, and calm a situation down are important skills for law enforcement. While not every person can be de-escalated, there are many instances where simple tactics such as using a calm voice and creating distance can make a difference.

Instead of relying on instructors to act as role-players or just learning through bookwork and presentations, simulation of de-escalation in virtual reality training has opened the door for realistic practice engaging with real people.

 

The Importance of Scenario Branching

If a simulated scenario only has a couple of options and pathways to resolution, it can only be done so many times. Users in the simulator would easily learn what they are “supposed” to do, and the element of predictability would be too strong.

Our multi-incident scenarios of de-escalation in virtual reality training have several branching options, allowing officers flexibility in how they respond and for instructors to change things up depending on the actions of the trainee. If the trainee’s de-escalation tactics are not working, the instructor could choose to make the on-screen character react with hostility. On the other hand, if the officer is effectively communicating, the instructor might allow the scenario to end peacefully.

 

Why De-Escalation?

As an officer, you’ve heard the word many times. It has become a buzzword, and not always in the right context. Properly de-escalating by using only verbal communication skills can reduce the chances of force being used if the person wants to be de-escalated. This includes using a calm voice, creating distance, avoiding inflammatory language and swearing, and letting the person safely vent.

It is important to note that not every subject can be de-escalated. Some people are too heavily under the influence of illicit substances, and others are simply not willing to cooperate no matter what. This is known by most officers, but the public tends to think you can wave a wand and calm everyone down. In these situations, the officer must do what is necessary to protect themselves, the public, and the subject as well.

 

De-Escalation in Virtual Reality Training Scenarios

While training for use-of-force incidents is important and should be done, officers rarely fire their weapons. In comparison, officers talk with members of the public many times per shift. In fact, the New York Times reported that 32-37 percent of officers’ shifts involve responding to non-criminal calls. Not only is keeping peace part of their jobs, but they often act as mediators, therapists, and a listening ear. This reality is reflected in the high number of scenarios that involve de-escalation in virtual reality training with VirTra’s simulators.

People can be irate and unruly in many situations, locations, and ways. Maybe it’s during a traffic stop, at a residence, or a public park. In each of these situations, instructors can choose what the subject will say, if they will calm down, or if they will become further enraged. Even in active threat training scenarios, a subject can raise their hands and surrender to officers – not every scenario has to end in lethal force.

 

VirTra gives instructors and officers alike a flexible way to train for de-escalation in virtual reality. They are able to hone communication skills. Would you like to schedule some time with a representative for more information? Contact a product specialist to learn more.

 

References

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/19/upshot/unrest-police-time-violent-crime.html

After a public crisis, communities do everything they can to come together and support those affected. Often times, this puts a focus on involved agencies and what their responses to situations would be.

Agencies across the nation will also have some pressure on them from their own communities asking, “Are you prepared if this were to happen here?” In these cases, having a proper community response is crucial.

One effective and engaging way to respond is to showcase the intensive training that the department goes through to make sure they are prepared for a crisis.

Communications Options

Agency communications divisions have options in how they could present their crisis training to the public. Whether through social media posts, in-person presentations or more – departments should choose the method that works best for them and simultaneously engages their audience

Using  social media could look like posting videos of teams walking through their exercises, pictures of officers actively training, quotes from teams and trainers about the benefits that their training is having on them, and more. Social media presents a variety of ways to share this content.

Inviting community members to participate in training exercises may also be effective. Citizen’s academies are a great tool for this. Teams and trainers would be able to  explain the benefits of their training while also teaching and training citizens in some of the stressful situations officers face.

Educating the public is another great tool. Agencies could host this event, equipped with a presentation explaining the training and having teams and trainers go up and share their testimonies. It is also a good way to bring the community together post-crisis.

There are various ways to execute this and each way would show the community that agencies are committed to their safety and that they are there for them in hard times.

Realistic Simulation Training

Departments should have the best quality of situational training set in place for their teams.  When a crisis presents, officers can respond quickly, effectively, and safely for everyone involved. making sure to get as many people home safely as possible.

VirTra’s training simulators are equipped with our nationally-certified curriculum, V-VICTA®. This curriculum includes training scenarios such as Active Threat/Active Killer (ATAK), Crisis De-escalation, Contact and Cover Concepts, and more. Each scenario is built with extensive branching options for officers to learn how the split-second decisions that they make can drastically change any situation.

Teams explore the scenarios in our fully immersive simulators, making them feel like they are on an active scene and experiencing it in real life and real time. Realistic training is of utmost importance when training for a crisis and VirTra’s simulation training implements that for departments so that they are ready to protect themselves and their community at all times.

To learn more about VirTra’s training, contact a specialist. Stay safe.

By: Nicole Florisi – VirTra Subject Matter Expert; Investigative Focus

Originally published in July 2022 IADLEST Newsletter 

If you are having a panic attack, do you want me to support you or have a panic attack with you? The answer seems simple, obvious really. But it isn’t that simple in practice. If it were, there wouldn’t be a host of research on vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress from empathetic engagement with trauma survivors. In fact, everyone who empathetically engages with trauma survivors has the potential to be affected.

What are some signs of vicarious trauma?

  • Over-identification with the victim
  • Becoming over-emotionally involved with the victim
  • Experiencing lingering feelings of anger, rage, and sadness for the victim’s circumstances
  • Difficulty in maintaining professional boundaries with the victim
  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anger, pessimism
  • Loss of objectivity

Sound familiar? It should. First responders frequently engage with trauma victims. First responders empathetically engage with trauma victims. Why? Because we are trained and told to do so. Empathy-based training is a law enforcement foundation and focus. But if you knew that empathy contributed to vicarious trauma and depressive symptoms, would you change that?

Empathy is considered a requirement for law enforcement officers. A core skill for good leaders. A key component of emotional intelligence. The panacea for building relationships, building rapport, and enhancing the likelihood of positive outcomes. From a training perspective and more importantly, a trauma-informed perspective, the implementation of empathy is not that simple.

Our goal as leaders, instructors, and coaches should be to mitigate trauma for first responders, not add to it. The intent to add trauma may not be purposeful, but the framework is. Empathy creates the potential for vicarious trauma. We have to acknowledge this before we can change it.

What is empathy?

At the core, empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of others. The goal of empathy is to deepen understanding, increase communication, and create space for individuals to be heard. Empathy is a foundation in many facets of communication, from the implementation of Active Listening Skills to the Behavioral Influence Stairway Model.

The concept of empathy is taught as a foundation in the application of different de-escalation tactics for law enforcement. Every de-escalation class I have attended has had empathy as a core skill, but none of those same classes teaches it in practice. In fact, I have never had any class that “teaches” empathy and most of you haven’t either. Why is that? Teaching empathy requires a level of
questioning, self-reflection, introspection, and emotional self-regulation that doesn’t happen in the time constraints of an 8-hour law enforcement training.

There are two types of empathy: cognitive and affective.

Cognitive empathy is the ability to identify and understand the emotions of another. Affective empathy is the ability to share feelings and sensations in response to another person’s pain. Other components of empathy are affective sharing; the natural capacity to become affectively aroused from another person’s emotions, empathic concern; the motivation of caring for another’s welfare
(self-serving or not), and perspective taking; the ability to consciously put yourself into the mind of another individual and imagine what that person is thinking and feeling.

There are numerous definitions for empathy and all of them concerning from a trauma perspective: share the feelings of another, walk in another person’s shoes, see the world through another person’s eyes, imagine what it’s like to be that person, see the world through another’s lens, vicariously experience the feelings of another. Another definition for empathy is “engaged suffering.” I do not want that for officers. Neither should you.

First responders are exposed to trauma on a level that no human being should ever experience. The argument of “that is what they signed up for” holds no weight. The trauma and stressors exist regardless. We have a responsibility to mitigate and prevent the trauma. Instead, we purposely provide officers with unbridled empathy-based training that creates an environment for vicarious trauma and depressive symptoms.

This is the nexus where empathy in practice creates trauma in reality. Forced human connection. Forced connections through trauma.

Ask yourself this. How much time do you want your officers to spend immersed in the trauma of those who they serve? If you aren’t answering that question with “none” then there is a problem. The longer we sit with the trauma of others, the more likely we will experience our own vicarious trauma.

Affective empathy is associated with depressive symptoms and an increase in vulnerability to depression. Distress increases when there is engaged suffering with someone. Secondary traumatic stress increases with empathetic listening. If we don’t address the weaknesses of empathy, we set our officers up for failure. Empathy allows for emotional resonance, the connection of “feeling with.” That sounds like it shouldn’t be an issue. The problem? “Feeling with” allows for emotional contagion. Where do people, including officers, make catastrophically poor decisions? When they lose critical and consequential decision-making skills which happens during emotional contagion, emotional overload, and over-emotional investment.

Empathy can enhance bias, including racial bias. Empathy plays favorites. We are more likely to align with those we like, those who are like us, those we have commonalities with, and those we find attractive, etc. It is more difficult to empathize with people who are not like us, who frighten us or disgust us. Functional MRI (fMRI) studies indicate that watching a person in pain can elicit
the same neurological response in the person watching. However, empathy disappears when it is someone disliked or hated. Instead, this can actually stimulate the pleasure center of the brain in lieu of an empathetic response.

One of the most understated tools of empathy is emotional manipulation. Officers are not always aware of these manipulation tactics, but this arises in certain populations, especially in personality disorders. Empathy can create a rush to judgment and allows for a misidentification of your wants versus another person’s needs.

Empathy is the act of experiencing the world as you think someone else does. We need to balance the weaknesses in empathy with resiliency. We would be much better rooting officers in a mindset of compassion combined with resiliency skills to prevent and mitigate trauma

 

References

  • Adler-Tapia, R. (2020). One badge, one brain, one life.
  • Bloom, P. (2016). Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, Harper Collins, New York, New York.
  • Decety, J., & Cowell, J. M. (2015). Empathy, justice, and moral behavior. AJOB neuroscience, 6(3), 3–14.
  • Hamilton, A.B.B., & Breithaupt, F. (2019). The Dark Sides of Empathy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Jenkins, S.R., Baird, S. Secondary Traumatic Stress and Vicarious Trauma: A Validational Study. J Trauma Stress 15, 423– 432 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020193526843
  • Moudatsou, M., Stavropoulou, A., Philalithis, A., & Koukouli, S. (2020). The Role of Empathy in Health and Social Care Professionals. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 8(1), 26.
  • Norhayati MN, Che Yusof R, Azman MY. Vicarious traumatization in healthcare providers in response to COVID-19 pandemic in Kelantan, Malaysia. PLoS One. 2021 Jun 4;16 (6):e0252603. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0252603. PMID: 34086747; PMCID: PMC8177457.
  • Pearlman LA, McKay L. Understanding & addressing vicarious trauma. Pasadena: Headington Institute; 2008.
  • Sinclair, S., Beamer, K., Hack, T. F., McClement, S., Bouchal, S. R., & Chochinov, H. M. (2017). Sympathy, Empathy, and Compassion: A Grounded Theory Study of Palliative Care Patients’ Understandings, Experiences, and Preferences. Palliative Medicine, 31, 437-447.
  • Whitton M. (2018). Vicarious traumatization in the workplace: a meta-analysis on the impact of social support. New Zealand: The University of Waikato.
  • Yan, Z., Zeng, X., Su, J., & Zhang, X. (2021). The dark side of empathy: Meta-analysis evidence of the relationship between empathy and depression. PsyCh journal, 10(5), 794–804.

Law enforcement encounter a variety of individuals during their careers. While substance use and mental illness are discussed and trained for, there are also certain medical conditions and diseases that can affect normal communication. These conditions and diseases must also be taught to officers to prepare them to help any and every individual in their community.

For example, neurocognitive disorders (NCD’s) affect memory, understanding, task performance and much more1. The most overwhelmingly common NCD is Alzheimer’s Disease, and in the past all NCD’s were classified as dementia, when in fact there are multiple types and levels. NCD’s are typically associated with the elderly since it is most prevalent in people 65 years of age are older, but it is not exclusive to this age group.

The way NCD’s work is by causing damage to brain cells. The damage gradually makes symptoms more and more noticeable over time. Sometimes it is not immediately apparent that someone has an NCD – at times it takes a few moments for signs to appear. In general, symptoms law enforcement officers may notice and want to look out for include:

  • Memory impairment
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Getting lost or misplacing items frequently
  • Poor judgment in decision making

Some of these symptoms do not always reflect Alzheimer’s or other similar diseases, but also traumatic brain injury or substance abuse. Law enforcement officers must also be aware that those with NCD’s have the possibility of becoming verbally or physically aggressive.

Officers can strategically communicate with those who have NCD’s by doing the following2:

  • Identify yourself
  • Speak slowly and non-threatening
  • Ask one question at a time, allowing the individual to respond
  • Repeat questions and phrases as necessary
  • Avoid confrontation

‘Neurocognitive Disorders’ is a section of VirTra’s “Mental Illness” curriculum. With a 12-page instructor guide, slideshow presentation and testing materials, law enforcement instructors can familiarize trainees with dementia and NCD’s. The coursework is designed to be used alongside simulated scenarios to allow ‘learning by doing.’

The entire “Mental Illness” set of V-VICTA® curriculum contains 15 hours of detailed coursework certified by IADLEST. To learn about how V-VICTA can be incorporated into your department’s training, contact a specialist.

 

References:

  1. Psychology Today. (2019). Neurocognitive Disorders (Mild and Major). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/neurocognitive-disorders-mild-and-major
  2. Alzheimer’s Association. (2006). Safe Return, Alzheimer’s disease: Guide for Law Enforcement. Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/national/documents/SafeReturn_lawenforcement.pdf

As science discovers more about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it becomes clearer how to communicate with autistic individuals. Because of a lack of knowledge of their unique communication needs, there have been unfortunate events in the past involving police officers and the autistic community. To reduce these incidents and ensure trust between the autistic community and law enforcement, steps have been taken to educate officers.

Law enforcement agencies around the United States are beginning to take advantage of various educational resources to understand ASD. One of the methods is through VirTra’s V-VICTA™ curriculum titled “Autism Awareness.” This 2-hour course — a collaboration between VirTra and Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) — includes scenarios and video walkthroughs. The goal is teaching law enforcement officers how to recognize the signs of autism and communicate appropriately.

Success Stories

An example of a successful approach was done by Utah Attorney General’s Office (UAG), who inspired Utah agencies to adopt the Autism Awareness training program. They have recently won the Best of State award for their Virtual Reality Training Center and the lessons officers learn from it – from Autism Awareness to de-escalation and use-of-force tactics. The framed award is pictured below.

Additionally, in September 2021, UAG Sean Reyes was awarded with the First Annual Autism Award for their efforts in making the community a safer place. As its name suggests, it was the first award of its kind and was awarded to UAG due to the impact they have made in educating law enforcement members about autism.

Law Enforcement Autism Curriculum

Some of the tips that officers can learn through VirTra’s Autism Awareness coursework includes recognizing the signs, making sure communication is clear and ensuring the person is comfortable during the encounter. It is no question that law enforcement around the country want to create a good relationship with the public, including those with special needs. Using the coursework’s tests, training manual, presentations and more, the goal is to maintain trust with the community.

To learn more about how VirTra can help law enforcement better understand ASD, contact a product specialist.

How a person learns evolves over time, yet simultaneously stays the same. Learning is also complicated, yet one of the simplest concepts to understand. And though learning is both easy and difficult, it is up to instructors to understand its nuances and create the best learning environment for their trainees.

In creating the best learning environment, instructors can rely on the social learning theory described by Albert Bandura. It describes how people learn socially through observing, modeling, then imitating the behavior and reactions of those around us. Or simply: monkey see, monkey do. It can also be from the perspective, “Don’t do what that monkey did!”

For a moment, think of a child. How do they learn how to act, move, communicate, the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs,’ and the rules of life? It is all learned through observation. Children follow their models, which often begins with parents and siblings and later branches out to friends, teachers, book and TV characters and so forth. After observation comes action, where children mimic the learned behaviors. Depending on if the behavior is met with a punishment or a reward, the behavior is then reinforced or discarded.

As children grow up, so does their form of learning. Now, observational learning comes with an extra step: thought before action. This new consideration helps people to improve themselves, as they think through possible outcomes rather than immediately imitating a presented behavior. After determining and performing the best course of action, they then become a model for others—bringing the social learning theory full circle.

While officers are full-grown adults, and not the children in this example, social learning theory still applies to training. Starting at the beginning, the V-VICTA™ curriculum my team and I create heavily promotes observation. It is recommended to have one officer complete a skill drill or training scenario with the rest of the class watching using a rubric for evaluation. Depending on how the first officer performed, those watching know which actions are important, which actions to mimic, which to avoid and overall, how to create a better outcome. While the first few officers may stumble and err, the remaining officers improve techniques and together everyone learns. This allows for larger numbers of officers to obtain high quality training with great time management.

Throughout this training, instructors act as the ‘parents’ or the ‘prime’, so to speak. It is the instructor’s job to reward positive actions or ‘punish’ potentially dangerous actions—either praising the behavior, describing the error in debrief or immediately providing a real-life consequence, such as an electric shock delivered by a Threat-Fire® device. Training after this manner helps reinforce correct training and make these lessons second-nature once officers are in the field.

Learning can be either complicated or simple; it all depends on how instructors approach the task. Creating an environment that places a heavier emphasis on observation before performing—our earliest form of learning—could be the greatest asset in your classroom.

 

Written by: Lon Bartel; VirTra Director of Training & Curriculum

Lon Bartel spent 20 years as an officer, where he spent 12 of those years as a Rangemaster and 18 years as a certified law enforcement trainer. Now, as an IADLEST Nationally Certified Instructor and Force Science certified Use of Force Analyst and Advanced Specialist, Lon works to create powerful training curriculum for law enforcement.

 

References:

Bandura, Albert. “Social-Learning Theory of Identificatory Processes.” Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research, Rand McNally & Company, 1969.

McLeod, S. A. (2016, February 05). Bandura – social learning theory. Simply Psychology.

Suicide by cop, often abbreviated to SBC, is an event that has two victims: the suicidal subject and the officer. These calls are incredibly difficult for everyone involved and officers must be prepared to handle any outcome. At the end of the day, law enforcement are forced with two major situations: maintaining safety and trying to de-escalate the subject.

SBC occurs when a suicidal individual engages in criminal behavior in an attempt to elicit lethal use of force from law enforcement. A 2019 article by The Washington Post estimates that about 100 fatal police shootings per year are SBC events. While occasionally some SBC subjects are armed with a firearm, many times they possess a knife or feign weapon possession.

There are different strategies used by individuals attempting SBC. Some of them plan ahead and orchestrate the situation while others occur due to a minor event that became escalated. For an integrated response, officers must take each call seriously and secure the scene appropriately. Only after can they determine the main problem and assess the risk of suicidality.

There are ways to talk a subject down and possibly prevent escalation:

  • Provide reassurance
  • Comply with reasonable requests
  • Offer realistic optimism
  • Consider non-lethal containment
  • Be careful not to let one’s guard down or be baited

While it may seem like common knowledge, it must be remembered that a person attempting SBC is suffering from a mental illness or experiencing some type of crisis. De-escalation and crisis de-escalation training can be of great assistance during SBC calls.

VirTra offers multiple scenarios as well as V-VICTA™ NCP-certified curriculum to help officers prepare for harrowing calls. These are designed by VirTra’s subject matter experts and certified by IADLEST to ensure knowledge takeaway. Some courses that focus on SBC and related situations include De-Escalation, Crisis De-Escalation and Mental Illness.

To allow your agency to experience a higher standard in training, contact a product specialist.

It sounds like a simple concept – one officer is a contact officer and another is the cover officer. The truth is, these concepts and principles arose from a number of unfortunate incidents in law enforcement where the contact and cover roles were blurred or even non-existent. Each officer has a role and responsibilities that are vital to safety and must be understood.

A tragic event in 1984 laid the groundwork for contact and cover principles. Officers Timothy Ruopp and Kimberly Tonahill of San Diego PD lost their lives on duty when apprehending two subjects for a misdemeanor charge. While Ruopp was writing the subjects a citation, Tonahill began conducting a Terry Frisk on one subject who overpowered her and shot both officers with a handgun. What went wrong? The contact officer, Tonahill, was not being observed or protected since Ruopp was focused on writing the citations.

Duties and Responsibilities of Contact & Cover Officers

A contact officer must:

  • Communicate, contain and control the subject(s)
  • Search and arrest subject(s)
  • Communicate with the cover officer and dispatch
  • Primarily assigned the use of less-lethal force options

The cover officer must:

  • Protect the contact officer
  • Remain aware of surroundings and third parties
  • Relay intelligence to contact officer
  • Provides lethal cover

It is important to reiterate that role switching is acceptable, but blurring the roles is not. Teamwork is mandatory and effective communication between officers, to subjects and to dispatch is imperative. Officers must monitor and maintain proper positioning and appropriate distancing. At times, subjects may need to be moved to help the cover officer observe.

All of these points and many more are mentioned in the Contact and Cover Concepts V-VICTA™ curriculum. This course is 3 hours of NCP certified material certified by IADLEST. Like other V-VICTA curriculum, Contact and Cover Concepts includes a training manual, associated simulator scenarios, a presentation, testing materials and more.

To learn how to incorporate Contact and Cover Concepts and the vital principles covered within the curriculum, contact a product specialist.