April is recognized as Autism Awareness Month. April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. On this month, businesses, charities, parents and those with autism themselves take extra time to spread awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Individuals on the autism spectrum have unique communication needs that not everyone understands, but awareness has been gradually spreading and allowing growth of acceptance.

Why it’s Important to Understand Autism

The most recent data from the CDC states that 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with ASD. With this large number combined with the amount of people a single officer interacts with on a daily basis, it is inevitable that they will make contact with someone on the spectrum. Autism can appear in all ethnicities, genders and socioeconomic groups, and some who have it display very few traits.

Autism is referred to as a “spectrum” due to the wide range of traits presented. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to tell someone was has autism because they behave and interact the way neurotypical people do. On the other side of the spectrum, some people may be non-verbal and have heavy reliance on a caregiver.

There have been incidents around the United States where officers mistook autistic behaviors for suspicious activity. Due to self-stimulation (called “stimming”) methods and unique ways of communicating, officers have reacted improperly and traumatized people with ASD. As part of being a police officer involves building community trust, meeting individual needs is crucial.

How To Build Trust with the Autism Community

Due to the frequency of which law enforcement officers may interact with people on the spectrum, VirTra worked with Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) to create certified curriculum for officers in 2020. This 2-hour coursework was certified at this time two years ago. It allows first responders to use their VirTra simulator to practice interactions with people on the spectrum. Titled “Autism Awareness,” it has been installed on hundreds of systems over the past two years.

This course is part of V-VICTA® – one of many NCP-certified courses that goes through rigorous review before becoming available to officers. Besides just giving written tips for how to handle interactions, officers have access to a walkthrough video featuring SARRC Director Daniel Openden. Scenarios also let officers practice interactions in branching scenarios filmed with actual people on the spectrum.

The Results of Awareness

Both VirTra and SARRC hope to see the number of officers using this curriculum grow. It does more than just paint police in a better light, but provides comfort to autistic individuals and their families. As mentioned, many current customers already have this coursework installed on their systems. We encourage you to get started if you haven’t already!

VirTra and SARRC were able to extensively test the Autism Awareness curriculum pre-launch. Current VirTra customers ran through the coursework, letting content developers know how it assisted them and what could be improved. One of which was Chief Muma of Jerome Police Department, who found great value in the training and was willing to provide it to his agency. The video below shows his testimony.

Contact us to learn more about how to utilize this curriculum in your department. We hope it will help awareness spread.

How do you transition your officers from traditional iron sights to a pistol-mounted red dot optic? There are plenty of good training ideas—such as increased practice on the range, lectures on how the optic works, etc.—but one of the best is having your officers engage in an extensive training course.

One such course is VirTra’s nationally-certified course “Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment.” This new curriculum has 21 accompanying training drills and was created in conjunction with Victory First® utilizing Aimpoint® red dot optics. Just as it sounds, this course is designed to help officers successfully transition from the traditional iron sights to a modern pistol-mounted red dot optic.

How it Works

Red Dot is one of VirTra’s V-VICTA® curriculum, and thus, follows the same structure. With this curriculum, instructors receive lecture materials, presentations, handbooks, range drills and more to teach, train, test and sustain their officers on the given material. This starts in the classroom, then leads to extensive red dot optic training either in the simulator or on the range.

Since training a new skill requires extensive practice, the Red Dot Optic course includes 21 detailed drills; everything from how many yards out the target is, time limits, rounds and repetitions, etc. VirTra includes this information so instructors can either practice it on their real-life training simulators, or on the range.

After the Course

Obviously, the point of any course is to familiarize officers with the taught skill—in this case, utilizing the pistol-mounted red dot optic—but VirTra’s courses go a few steps further. After the course is completed, officers should be able to identify advantages and disadvantages of the red dot system, identify the importance of target and threat focus instead of the focus on the front sight, and more.

To continue learning about VirTra’s “Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment” curriculum and how officers benefit from this training, please contact a VirTra specialist.

53% of American households own dogs, according to recent statistics. If you have ever owned a pet before, you likely know that they become a part of your family. When officers approach a home, it is likely that the owners will have a dog – sometimes the dog is friendly, but other times not. Recent dog encounters have turned deadly, leaving law enforcement agencies with huge lawsuits that have gone over $1 million.

According to a local news source out of Florida, a state embroiled in several dog encounters gone wrong over the past few years and Florida is not one of the only six states in the country require law enforcement officers to be trained in dealing with dogs. January 2022, a Miami-Dade police officer shot a dog 7 times and the agency now faces a hefty lawsuit by the dog’s owner. Additionally, a lawsuit from 2019 has reached $750,000 after a woman’s dog was killed by a SWAT team in St. Louis.

A trifecta program that has existed for years may be part of the solution to this ongoing problem around the country. Law Enforcement Dog Encounters Training (LEDET) was developed in a partnership with the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse and the National Sheriff’s Association. Jim Crosby, member of NLECAA and dog behavior expert, authored an 8-hour class, a DOJ approved Toolkit available for download for free and to be used alongside of six VirTra simulation scenarios that include real actors and dogs.

The following items are available as resources and could be used together or separately:

  • DOJ-approved 8-hour course by Jim Crosby (earn a LEDET certification)
  • Six VirTra dog scenarios
  • Downloadable toolkit and checklist

The video below shows Harford County, MD officers learning from educational graphics and VirTra’s high-quality video scenarios that include dogs. Some scenarios show a property alarm response where a responding officer encounters a dog, and others have a traffic stop where a dog is in the car with the subject.

Remember, current VirTra customers have these scenarios loaded onto their simulators already. If you want to learn more about the LEDET program, download resources or schedule a demonstration here.

It is easy to focus on de-escalation, mental illness, or active threat training—after all, each of these topics are often front-and-center in the news and are encouraged by communities everywhere. But what about other training that rounds out both your training regimen and your officers’ skillsets? 

VirTra worked with Victory First®—a training and consulting company—to create the nationally-certified course “Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment.” This was done utilizing Aimpoint® red dot optics. This course is designed to equip officers with the skills to successfully transition from traditional iron sights to a pistol-mounted red dot optic, a valuable tool for officers everywhere. 

Utilizing Red Dot Optic Training

The way VirTra designed this course, instructors can use these materials to either teach officers with little/no experience, or as a sustainment for officers already familiar with the skill. The Red Dot Optic Training curriculum comes with a pre-test, post-test, lecture materials and range drills, allowing instructors to implement and customize training based on their department’s needs.  

For example, officers new to the skill will need the whole package; tests, lecture materials and drills to learn and perfect the skill. However, officers already familiar with these materials may only need to engage in daily drills to keep skills sharp. 

Further customization comes from the drills themselves. This course comes with 21 detailed drills, including: how many yards out the target is, time limits, which targets are used, how many rounds and repetitions the trainee must engage in, and further instructions for the shooter. As such, instructors can use these drills on their VirTra training simulators, or recreate the drills with live fire on the range.  

Course Certification 

As mentioned above, VirTra’s Red Dot Optic Training is nationally-certified. This curriculum received its National Certification Program award through IADLEST, thus providing departments with 4 hours of certified training. The certification process requires thorough reviews and a rigorous independent review process, so departments know they are receiving quality training materials. 

To start implementing this curriculum into your department, and take your training to the next level, contact a VirTra training specialist 

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

Despite having different names, there can be confusion on the difference between an active threat and a hostage or barricade situation. Understanding the difference is crucial because each situation requires different, unique law enforcement responses.

Hostage

A hostage is a person held captive against their will until a specific ultimatum is met. The hostage is usually held by force—sometimes with the threat of a deadly weapon, such as with a gun to their head or knife to their neck—but occasionally hostages are held by verbal threats. The subject expects some kind of demand to be met in exchange for not harming the person they are holding hostage.

When faced with a hostage situation, law enforcement must reason or negotiate with the hostage taker and attempt to get them to peacefully surrender without harming the person/people they are holding hostage. As each situation is different, these complicated events require flexibility and preparation for many different routes the encounter may take.

Barricade

In a barricade situation, an individual confines themselves to specific area that does not allow others to enter, then refuses to leave the area despite commands. A barricaded subject poses a danger to others, but unlike an active threat event, they are in a relatively fixed position and not roaming where a stream of potential victims may be.

Barricade incidents can be dangerous as many subjects have deadly weapons. At times, they threaten their own lives or the lives of others from their position. Barricades can go on for hours, as seen in this incident in Georgetown, KY. Sometimes others are within the barricaded area with the subject, despite not being held hostage.

Hostage/Barricade

A hostage barricade situation is a combination of the two incidents above; the subject is confined to an area and unwilling to leave while also holding a person against their will in exchange for an ultimatum. Hostage/barricade is often confused with an active threat, especially when shots are fired.

An example of a hostage/barricade would be when a bank robber is interrupted by police, then holds a customer or teller against their will to try and wrestle control away from law enforcement. In unfortunate circumstances, these situations may evolve into a murder/suicide where the subject kills the hostage(s) and then themselves.

Active Threat

There are characteristics of an active threat/active killer event that distinguish it from any of the aforementioned situations. Some of these include:

  • An ongoing supply of potential victims
  • A detailed plan for the attack
  • Location is chosen for tactical or personal reasons
  • Traditional “contain and negotiate” police tactics are not appropriate to use
  • The goal for the killer is to kill as many people as possible in a short time

Active Threat / Active Killer Coursework

Module 1 of VirTra’s ATAK curriculum delves into not just preparation and practice for dealing with active threats, but helps law enforcement trainees distinguish between active threats and other situations. The 3-hour V-VICTA™ course offers testing and simulator practice on correctly identifying the threat, and then in turn, handling it in the proper way.

To learn how VirTra’s certified curriculum and immersive training scenarios can help law enforcement handle even the toughest events, contact a product specialist.

VirTra has recently launched certified curriculum with 21 training drills in conjunction with Victory First® utilizing Aimpoint® red dot optics. This coursework – “Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment” – is part of the V-VICTA® line of curriculum provided to clients. It is being officially announced and demonstrated at SHOT Show 2022.

Aimpoint is recognized as the originator of red dot sight technology and has provided military, law enforcement and commercial clients with a more accurate shooting experience. Because of the wide usage of red dot sights and how increasing numbers of law enforcement agencies are using them, VirTra wanted to work with Aimpoint to help officers practice adjusting to the use of red dot sights.

Victory First not only trains law enforcement but provides accessories and gear for officers as well as responsible firearm owners. As a retired police officer and U.S. Marine veteran, Owner Matt Jacques has used his vast knowledge to assist VirTra in writing and reviewing the curriculum and its associated training drills.

“I was truly humbled to have VirTra contact me to build out the RDS syllabus and course materials for their simulators” said Matt Jacques, owner of Victory First. “Spending time with their staff and the people who bring all of the coursework and drills to the level of realism the VirTra systems provides was an honor. The VirTra simulators offer a huge advantage for agencies to be able to provide education, supplement and maintain proficiency with their issued gear. This program will provide education on RDS handgun selection, fielding, initial training as well as sustainment training at a time when more Law Enforcement agencies adopt RDS optics on duty handguns.”

With 21 detailed training drills, the goal of the course is to allow officers to practice drawing, aiming and more with red dot sights. Law enforcement members will also be able to review the pros and cons of using a red dot sight before moving onto drills where they can test their skills. Even learning how to deal with sight failures due to damage or expired battery is something that trainees can do.

The upcoming Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment curriculum is provided for free to all VirTra customers that are on an annual service agreement. It will consist of 4 hours of curriculum and has passed rigorous review from IADLEST to receive NCP certification. It can also be seen this week until the 21st at VirTra’s SHOT Show booth – Booth #30009.

To learn more about the new curriculum and how it can be integrated into your department’s training, contact a specialist.

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.

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.

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 technologically advanced hardware is not the only aspects that aids in training law enforcement, but it 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 who are retired law enforcement members, we also partner with industry experts to ensure the quality of content. Before becoming available to customers, the curriculum is submitted to IADLEST to undergo a rigorous review to become NCP certified.

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.