You may have heard the story of Deputy Kyle Dinkheller’s murder during an officer-involved shooting. The event was tragic, but Dinkheller lives on with how his story has helped train recruits and officers alike.
The original dashcam footage gave insight into a few tactics that were not properly used – or in some cases, not used at all. Some of the training points to look at include vehicle contact and approach, utilizing the radio for backup, and force options.
When Dinkheller pulled over Andrew Brannan, he asked him to step out of his vehicle to talk to him. This was what his agency’s training had officers do, however it is generally agreed upon that it is easier to control a person inside a vehicle.
A situation that seems mindless but can have serious consequences is how you approach the vehicle. There are many things to be aware of, such as:
During vehicle approach, staying within the mitigation zone1 and maintaining control of where the subject is positioned can greatly increase safety.
When Dinkheller used his radio to request backup, it caused Brannan to become more agitated. Sometimes negative reactions occur when a call is made within earshot of a subject, so officers should be mindful of when and where they use their radio.
Additionally, if you are engaged in the threat, your priority should be addressing it. Teaching officers to call for backup during a use of force event should be avoided. It can create a training scar with serious effects, such as not addressing the current situation, but relying on other units that may not arrive immediately.
During the time of Dinkheller’s murder, ECW devices were not widely used. Dinkheller used a collapsible baton to get Brannan to stop his actions, but it was not used with full force. The hit combined with the fact that Brannan had a contaminated mindset made it so the strike had no effect. When a subject is mentally ill or under the influence of a substance, they do not always respond to pain compliance techniques.
Another less-lethal option would be going hands-on. If a subject is not listening to the commands given, an officer may start by grabbing the subject and trying to restrain them. Dinkheller, unfortunately, did not attempt to go hands-on although he could have based on Brannan’s actions.
Finally, there is the lethal option which could have been utilized at a certain point into the encounter. Dinkheller had a rifle available to him in the trunk of his squad car – a storage position that was normal for his agency at that time. Long guns should ideally be kept in the driver area of the squad for easier and faster access.
The newest curriculum by VirTra – “My Story: Dinkheller” – gives officers of all experience levels a chance to learn from this past event. Instructors have access to training materials such as an instructor manual, slide presentation, testing material, and more. It can easily be taught to students right out of the box and is free for VirTra customers.
Along with the coursework is a brand-new scenario that puts you in a similar situation to what Dinkheller went through. You are on a rural road on a traffic stop with a mentally ill subject. What will you do in that position? Will you use de-escalation and be able to verbally calm the man, or possibly use a less lethal device? There are 80+ branching options depending on the user’s actions or the instructor’s choice.
See the video below for a glimpse at what this scenario is like. If you would like more information on this course, visit this page here.
If you have been following VirTra for any amount of time, you may have noticed that we put great emphasis on our content. High-definition video and advanced hardware are not the only aspects that aid in training law enforcement. Most important is the training content that ensures effective knowledge transfer. VirTra’s efforts even go beyond intense and realistic scenarios – the VirTra content team of subject matter experts create curriculum for instructors to utilize in a fast, simple way.
This curriculum, known as V-VICTA® (VirTra – Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy) pairs VirTra’s immersive scenarios with actual NCP certified materials. VirTra customers receive lesson plans, scoring rubrics, presentations, class surveys and more. We know that it is time-consuming and difficult to create your own curriculum and have it certified, so VirTra has done all the legwork for its training partners.
V-VICTA has proven to be effective for Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC). Todd Brophy, the Firearms Range Training Coordinator, has incorporated the curriculum into his force options instruction classes. Brophy allows the CJTC students to learn in a classroom setting first, then coaches them while they practice in one of the 10 units, they use VirTra simulations for in their Firearms Program.
“The feedback we are consistently getting from the students is ‘we need more of this,’” said Brophy, who likes to allow his students to work in pairs for practice in communication skills and contact & cover concepts. “The students seem to enjoy the training and provide feedback of what they are taking away at the end of the session consistent with the learning goals and objectives we have identified for each training segment.”
Brophy’s successful method of using the curriculum combines his existing teaching modalities with V-VICTA’s. V-VICTA can be used in tandem with pre-developed ideas, or just used right out of the box. Some of the certified courses offered include:
Beyond VirTra’s in-house subject matter experts, we also partner with industry experts to ensure the quality of content. Before becoming available to customers, every course is submitted to IADLEST for NCP certification. IADLEST rigorously reviews every course to ensure it meets standards before it ever meets customer systems.
To receive V-VICTA and its updated content, you must be a current VirTra customer on an Annual Service Plan. To find out more about how to obtain V-VICTA curriculum, contact a product specialist here.
In 1998, Deputy Kyle Dinkheller was fatally shot during a traffic stop. The aftermath left his family and colleagues heartbroken, but his death was not in vain. The incident brought on a deeper look into police training, agency culture, and much more. In this way, Deputy Dinkheller has saved lives even after his passing.
One of the first officer involved critical incidents recorded on a dashcam, 22-year-old Dinkheller struggled to control Vietnam combat veteran Andrew Brannan. Eventually Brannan retrieved a gun from his vehicle and ultimately shot and killed Dinkheller. You can watch the full video here.
It is important to keep in mind that officers had different tools in 1998. Almost no officers carried ECW / CEW devices and the use of a baton (like the one Dinkheller used) was more common. Still, there were several lessons to be learned by future officers, making this event more than just an unfortunate story.
The new course “My Story: Kyle Dinkheller” gives officers a different perspective of the incident that has been in so many training videos. The coursework is accompanied by a true-to-life scenario with more than 50 branching options. The traffic stop scenario allows for the officer to use de-escalation, less lethal tools, or lethal force depending on what the situation requires.
To obtain this coursework, you must be a current VirTra customer and on an Annual Service Plan. For more information, visit this webpage.
April is National Autism Awareness Month. Around this time in 2020, VirTra released the “Autism Awareness” course to help law enforcement recognize the signs of autism. This would not have been achieved without the partnership and expertise of SARRC – Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center.
Since the inception of this training program, agencies all around the country have received the coursework and scenarios. Some agencies such as Utah Attorney General’s (UAG) Office have made VirTra’s Autism Awareness training a requirement. So, what has happened with VirTra, SARRC, and the autism community since 2020?
The UAG inspired Utah agencies to adopt the Autism Awareness training program. In fact, Utah Governor Cox signed H.B. 162 (peace officer training amendments) and H.B. 334 (special needs training for law enforcement). These two bills required POST training to include 16 hours of training on autism and mental illnesses. The training programs include the use of classwork, bodycam review, and VirTra’s simulated scenarios to familiarize officers with autism spectrum disorder.
Additionally, the UAG received the Best of State award for their Virtual Reality Training Center and the lessons officers learn from it – including Autism Awareness. Sean Reyes of the UAG even received the First Annual Autism Award in 2021 for the impact they’ve made by teaching officers about autism.
Even in 2020 when the program was barely released to the public, VirTra received positive feedback from Chief Muma of Jerome Police Department in AZ. “I really thought it was well developed,” said Muma during a video interview. “It brought forth something that I don’t think we’ve had in the field… It’s provided something that has been lacking in the industry for a long time.”
A lot has happened since SARRC was formed in 1997. What was once considered a 1 in 500 diagnosis has shifted due to further research. Now, it is reported that 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism. According to SARRC’s recent statistics, here is what they have provided for the autism community and their families just over the past year:
VirTra values our partnership with SARRC not only because of the great assistance they have provided us in releasing our coursework to law enforcement. We also truly believe in their mission and drive to make the world a better place for those with autism spectrum disorder.
The country has made great strides in not only diagnosis, but in educating the public about the signs of autism and how to communicate with someone on the spectrum. People who are communicating with a wide variety of citizens every day – such as police officers – are especially deserving of this type of training.
In the past, there have been unfortunate instances where officers have mistaken autistic behaviors as “suspicious” or even drug-related. With the number of agencies now receiving training and the general public awareness of the disorder, we hope to see the number of these situations decrease significantly.
To learn how to obtain the Autism Awareness course, contact a VirTra specialist.
The biggest part of a training experience is its content. Big screens and fancy headsets may be flashy and eye-catching, but without the content to learn from, they won’t do much. Making high-quality scenarios that users can learn from involves many steps, extensive planning, and rigorous testing,
Before anything else, it must be determined what kind of scenarios our training partners will benefit from the most. Using suggestions from clients and keeping current affairs in mind, treatments are written by the SME’s. For example, in the wake of the George Floyd incident, the Content Department immediately began working on the “Duty to Intervene” videos and scenarios. It then goes to the director to be made into a working script and shot lists.
Since the addition of the V3™ Volumetric Capture Studio, VirTra will be capturing real people and inserting them into scenarios as 3D objects that can be used on both screen-based and VR platforms. It tackles the limitations of CGI. This ensures that the environment and characters are believable, thus leading to a more valuable training experience.
Where some simulation companies use video filmed from a cell phone, VirTra involves professional equipment and actors. CGI used in most training simulations is simply not realistic enough to elicit emotional responses. In fact, some CGI characters “speak” without their lips even moving. Having a real person shown on-screen increases sympathetic response and more closely mimics real life.
The VirTra Difference involves professional equipment and paid actors. These filming sessions can take hours or sometimes multiple days to ensure footage acquired is up to standard. In-house subject matter experts who have law enforcement and/or military experience are on the set. This ensures the content being filmed will have relevance and realistic actions.
After filming is wrapped up, the next step is editing and creating the dozens of branching options. Situations in the real world are fluid and evolving, so our scenarios are designed this way too. During an active shooter event, the suspect may drop their weapon and surrender, or begin firing at the officer. A seemingly calm person could pull a knife if the wrong words are used to communicate. All these possibilities must be edited and programmed.
Upon completion, scenarios are added to existing simulators and all new ones assembled going forward. Some scenarios and training videos are used in tandem with V-VICTA® curriculum. This coursework is NCP-certified by IADLEST and includes training manuals, testing materials, and more. We want to take the hard work out of the learning process so instructors can get their lessons right out of the box.
If you are interested in adopting this technology, contact a product specialist. Check out the video below for a quick rundown of how just a single scenario is filmed in a professionally organized manner.
When an officer lets their emotions get the best of them, they often show signs of it before any drastic actions occur. This is a crucial window where the officer’s partner can intervene before they lose control. If signs are ignored, it could progress and lead to excessive force or another violation of a person’s Constitutional rights.
Does your agency have policies in place for intervention? Are your officers prepared to intervene? If your answer to both of these questions is not a solid and immediate ‘yes,’ then it is time to consider solidifying intervention procedures. By emphasizing the importance of reporting misconduct and establishing a plan when witnessing it, you are protecting both your staff and the community.
VirTra has created V-VICTA® curriculum dedicated to informing agencies about officers’ duty to intervene as well as how to go about it. Simulated scenarios based off real-life events are paired with an easy-to-follow lesson plan and engaging training videos. Aptly titled “Duty to Intervene,” this course has gone through rigorous review to receive NCP certification from IADLEST.
While policies and the way agencies train vary by state, one thing certain is that every officer – regardless of rank or seniority – has the duty to intervene. It is vital to incorporate it into your training program in some way, and there have been creative methods used.
One such example is Utah Attorney General’s Office who hosts training courses dedicated entirely to the duty to intervene. Training Specialist Will Fowlke has blended VirTra into several training topics throughout the years. The latest addition is Duty to Intervene.
Utah Attorney General’s Office hosted a 2-hour training course addressing the duty to intervene and importance of reporting misconduct. The course uses excerpts from VirTra’s Duty to Intervene curriculum and utilizes scenarios on their V-300®.
“The scenarios we use include Crowd Control, Constitutionalist, Tire Tantrum, and VirTra’s new Duty to Intervene Vignettes Series that include five custom made vignettes designed to hone officers’ intervention skills” said Mr. Fowlke when discussing the utilization of scenarios during the course. “We selected these scenarios to address unconstitutional use of force, unconstitutional search and seizure, and biased police practices.” The course allows attending officers to review and analyze body cam footage. Analyzing known protest incidents helps officers learn the right and wrong ways to intervene.
Mr. Fowlke stated that he received positive feedback on the course. Participants noted that being able to review footage and participate in hands-on simulator training was helpful. In the past, Utah Attorney General’s Office has created training for Autism, Active Shooter, and other topics while utilizing VirTra’s scenarios.
If you would like to learn how you can incorporate simulated scenarios into your existing training regime, contact a specialist.
We talk A LOT about training in law enforcement. Academy training, the field training program for new officers, annual training, specialized training…heck, even this training article you’re reading right now! But here is the brutal truth: we don’t train enough. Not even close to what we should be doing.
Want a recent example? In 2022 there was an active shooter incident in Uvalde, Texas. After the incident, there was a lot of talk about how officers responded at the scene. An investigation into the responding officers training found that half of them have never been through active shooter training.
If we all agree that training is so important, then why don’t we do more? Why do officers in the United States fall so far behind their counterparts around the world when it comes to training hours? Money.
A recent study found that 97% of police agencies budgets went toward salary and benefits, leaving 3% for all other expenditures, including training. (Urban Institute, n.d.) In recent years there has been a call for agencies to spend more money on training their officers, but we are still not where we should be.
Now, let’s look at how much time a recruit may spend in an academy for their training. In the U.S., the average length of basic police training is around 800 hours, or 20-22 weeks. (Emily D. Buehler, 2021) I wanted to know how this compared to other jobs that had required training, so I looked a few of them up. To get your barber license: 1500 hours. To be a licensed plumber: 4 years of experience.
Ok, ok, so maybe a barber needs more hours than an officer. Surely, we’re in line with the rest of the world when it comes to officer training. Right? Not. Even. Close.
Canada requires around 1,000 hours. England is between 2,000 and 2,500 hours. 3,500 hours in Australia. And in India, Finland, and Dubai, you’re looking at around 5,000 hours of training to become an officer.
Something doesn’t seem to add up. Why would we want police officers out there without a significant amount of training? Ok, yes, officers need 2 years of secondary schooling as well, but think about how much of those two years really falls into “training” and is useful on the job.
As trainers, we need to speak up and demand that more time and resources are available to properly train officers. Multiple studies show that more training makes it safer for officers and the people they interact with. It also reduces liability on the city, county, or state that the officers work for, since well-trained officers are less likely to be sued.
If you can’t get more money, you can still get more training in. Roll-call training, mid-shift training, and online classes all can be done for little to no cost. Training doesn’t have to come in 4-hour blocks. 15 minutes here and there can really add up. If you want to send officers to training that may have a financial impact, check with your neighboring departments to see if there may be a discount for larger groups.
If you’re interested in simulation training, which can be very cost effective, look for grants that can help fund the purchase of a VirTra simulator. With the IADLEST certified V-VICTA® training curriculum included, your officers can spend less time planning and preparing for classes, and more time doing the training.
Stay safe. Stay dedicated.
Emily D. Buehler, P. D. (2021). State and Local Law Enforcement Training Academies, 2018. U.S. Department of Justice.
Urban Institute. (n.d.). Criminal Justice Expenditures: Police, Corrections, and Courts. Retrieved from Urban.org: https://www.urban.org/policy-centers/cross-center-initiatives/state-and-local- finance-initiative/state-and-local-backgrounders/criminal-justice-police-corrections-courts- expenditures
Courts have been hearing cases about failure to intervene for years – as far back as 1972. All courts have ruled that officers have a duty to intervene when there is a violation of a person’s constitutional rights. This includes during excessive or unnecessary application of force.
There are various reasons people may not intervene when a fellow officer is acting out of conduct. Maybe they don’t know they should, or they freeze up. Sometimes there is a negative culture in the agency that prevents them – consciously or unconsciously – from reporting an incident or stopping the offense.
The why, when, what, and how are all important to know when discussing an officer’s duty to intervene. When training, we look at past examples of what went wrong, then adjust accordingly in order to avoid making the same mistakes. Instructors must also show examples where proper intervention took place in order to see how these applications can work in the real world.
When you fail to intervene, it does not only affect the victim, it affects both legally and morally, plus the entire agency may be subject to distrust from the community. It goes against what is an officer’s code of conduct, as they joined the force to protect the community they serve.
As we have seen over the years with various failure to intervene cases, there is a national (and sometimes international) spotlight when things go wrong. These include notable incidents such as the Rodney King and George Floyd cases. In both, one or more officers allowed an instance of unnecessary or unreasonable amount of force to occur and continue.
The most important reasons why duty to intervene matters:
Despite rules being in place, issues can still happen and it is important to understand why. Your department should place value in those who come forward when something is wrong, but occasionally, there is a “code of silence” or people become worried of repercussions for reporting someone.
Nobody should have to fear retaliation for doing the right thing. Some agency cultures can make officers feel that they cannot report someone who is higher in seniority, or that they will be treated like a “snitch.” These are things that can be discussed with officers of all ranks, ensuring everyone knows that duty to intervene applies to everyone regardless of rank or status.
Lastly, leadership influences the success of policies. If it’s all lip service and things don’t actually change, nothing is accomplished. In fact, not sticking to the policies you create and discuss can lower officers’ trust in their leadership. Supervisors should enforce the policies and create a culture of feeling empowered to step up when seeing something wrong.
Officers should detect the need to intervene early in the event before trouble starts. Signs of anger and use of profanity could indicate that the officer is starting to let their emotions get the best of them. The EPIC model (ethical policing is courageous) suggests using a 10-code that can signal to the other officer that they need to calm down. “Sgt. Smith, 10-12!” or similar can get their attention without alerting others or causing embarrassment.
VirTra has given its law enforcement clients an opportunity to practice their understanding of when to intervene. Certified in early 2023, “Duty to Intervene: No Such Thing as a Professional Bystander” gives users an interactive and engaging way to learn. It combines training videos and multiple immersive scenarios to give officers the experience in a safe learning environment.
Professional intervention is important and is used in other fields besides policing, even in medical and aviation settings. It can save your job, your partner’s job, and the wellbeing of the community you serve. If you would like to get started with VirTra and begin training Duty to Intervene and other important topics, contact a specialist.
EPIC – Ethical Policing Is Courageous. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://epic.nola.gov
Galindez v. City of Hartford (U.S. Dist LEXIS 17592 2003).
Written by: Nicole Florisi, Law Enforcement Subject Matter Expert – Investigative Focus
There is a great deal of stigma attached to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the first responder community. With all the “talk” of officer wellness, officer mental health, and resiliency there is not the decrease in negative outcomes that one would like to see overall. Why is that? In some cases, it is the label of having a disorder. Words are powerful and there is a distinct difference in the word disorder versus injury. In other cases, it is nothing more than checking the boxes and “talk” about what should be done to increase positive outcomes. We know where talking gets us. Nowhere, just like it does in the training environment. If we do not teach, implement, and model the skills we want first responders to have, we are not doing what is best.
There is a large focus on the “management” of PTSD and a lot less focus on the areas of prevention and mitigation. There is weakness in the training and application of resiliency skills for first responders to succeed. We have come to a point where individuals stigmatize the word resiliency. If you do not want your officers to have the grit and resiliency to move through the trauma they experience, you are part of the problem.
I was contacted a few months ago by an officer who had the experience of handing a case involving the burned bodies of children. He was struggling (his words) and looking for someone to talk with that would be able to support him while he worked through these events. Unfortunately, the clinician he originally saw started crying when he was sharing the events that brought him to treatment. The clinician told this officer that they could not treat him, as the events that he saw were too “overwhelming for them.”
I am proud beyond belief that this officer still sought treatment. The individuals in his department were not supportive either. He was told by someone in upper management that seeing burned bodies was part of the job and he was weak. That person told this officer that PTSD was “a bunch of crap for people who couldn’t handle life.” And we wonder why officers experience challenges in the recovery process.
On an anecdotal level, I have spoken with several first responder psychologists and therapists. The main barrier to treatment that officers face is not usually moving through the critical incident. The barrier is agency betrayal. Sit with that for a minute. We should provide an environment where it is emotionally safe for first responders to work through their experiences.
The book One Badge, One Brain, One Life: Preventative Maintenance for Your Brain While in the Line of Duty is a fantastic resource for all law enforcement. This book provides information, education, and practical skills to reduce and mitigate symptoms of trauma. You can purchase the book here: One Badge One Brain One Life | Tapia Counseling & P (drrobbie.org)
At VirTra, our V-VICTA® curriculum supports officer wellness. It provides a foundation for coping and resiliency skills that can mitigate traumatic symptoms. VirTra simulators can be a part the process of reintegration for officers after a critical incident. This entails having a framework rooted in best practices that minimizes the risk of enhancing dissociation, derealization, and depersonalization that can accompany traumatic experiences. Both education and conversation are part of reducing stigma. No matter your rank or your role, you can be part of the solution.
Whether you’re a veteran law enforcement trainer or new to the department, training classes can be challenging to cut out time to write, create and plan out. With the help of our expert trainers, VirTra has created the Advanced Training Certification Course (ATCC). This five-day, 40-hour course is designed to give trainers the ability to excel, improve department goals, and ensure that your simulators and scenarios are utilized to their potential. ATCC takes place at our headquarters to provide certified training to trainers on a variety of topics including:
Our ATCC course starts off the week with a certified course on Simulation Science. This course is highly praised for its teaching methods. It is an 8-hour NCP-certified class covering the reality of current training for law enforcement and the role of simulation. One unit focuses on the effectiveness of teaching with adult learning concepts, where the transfer of skills becomes an integral part of training effective law enforcement officers.
This class starts with an assessment of the trainer’s skills with the VirTra simulator. It later progresses through the best methods and techniques to keep your simulator in peak condition. By starting with the basics such as an introduction to the weapon recoil kits and other calibration tools, the class breaks down the basics before building on those skills. Then, with the use of VirTra’s advanced features, each trainer is given specific attention to gauge their current skills. It will show where they could be using other features of VirTra’s extensive library of scenarios and drills.
If practice makes perfect, then for every hour on the range, the trainees should have a perfect shooting stance. However, we know that trainers have to teach marksmanship in a variety of environmental factors. The V-Marksmanship course discusses the building blocks for adding a simulation training regiment as part of your firearms training. Covering a wide selection of topics such as three points of coverage and low light training, trainers will then duplicate this in an exercise of their own design following this formula.
One of our most popular training topics is V-VICTA®. This section of ATCC discusses what V-VICTA is, how to use it, and why it is helpful. VirTra’s V-VICTA is filled with 90+ hours of certified training, and many agencies don’t know about it. VirTra’s instructors who have authored these courses discuss best practices of incorporating it. Additionally, attendees will learn how to access the coursework and present it effectively.
This section of the course wraps up with a breakdown of how to use our coveted V-Author® scenario tools which provides the ability to create your own scenarios from scratch with a panoramic photo. After covering the essential function, the instructor breaks the class into groups. Next, each group creates a customized scenario for topics such as a multi-incident or their department’s firearms qualification course. By customizing scenarios, trainers can drive their training techniques for specific training issues for their agency.
This week-long advanced training course allows VirTra customers to improve on their skills as trainers. It helps them see the potential of what they can add to their current simulation training techniques.
If you would like to sign up for an ATCC course this year, check out our Eventbrite page to sign up.