Realistic training is the obvious ideal for training officers to handle the different calls they might experience. Knowing how to draw and handle the weapons on their belt, knowing when or if they even need to draw their weapon, and being able to accurately use their weapons are all situations where realistic training would help to improve officer performance. This training can be executed in a few ways such as live role-playing or virtual scenario training.


Realistic Training with VirTra

VirTra helps prepare officers for the real-world by offering them a true-to-life experience within our virtual simulators. With four different simulator size options, ranging from one screen to five screens, our five-screen V-300® is our most immersive, realistic experience for training.

Additionally, each simulator is a comprehensive decision-making tool and equipped with our nationally-certified V-VICTA® curriculum that covers topics such as Active Threat/Active Killer, Injured Officer Handgun Manipulation, De-Escalation, and more. The scenarios for each topic are professionally-produced with real actors – departments even have the option to insert locations from their own communities in order to have a more accurate training experience!

We even provide a realistic firearm and less lethal weapon experience with our drop-in CO2 recoil kits and laser-based CEW device cartridges that fit into live handles. When weapons are utilized within the scenarios, the on-screen characters react accordingly, helping to teach officers the results of their different actions.


Training Through Stress

Not only does realistic training with a simulator help officers experience different situations but it also exposes officers to those situations in a stress-inducing environment similar to the one they might experience on an actual call.

A study done by R.R.D Oudejans states that “Reality-based practice under pressure improves handgun shooting performance of police officers” ¹. VirTra helps accomplish this by providing a fully immersive experience that requires officers to keep their head on a swivel and practice their situational awareness skills.

They also have the option of wearing our stress inoculation device, the V-THREAT-FIRE®, which simulates consequences within the scenarios such as gunshots and dog bites. With both of these training factors, the pressure is on and with that pressure can come improved performance and confidence for officers.

If you want to learn more about receiving realistic training for your department, contact a VirTra specialist.



  1. Reality-based practice under pressure improves handgun shooting performance of police officers’

R.R.D. OUDEJANS; Ergonomics; Vol 51 No. 3; March 2008

Originally Published in IADLEST Magazine

Think about when you first became a law enforcement officer—whether it was a few years ago or decades. Either way, few officers had Red Dot Optics/Sights (RDS) mounted on their duty sidearms. But as time has gone on, technology has advanced and evolved to bring modern officers a tool that produces increased accuracy in the field. As such, pistol mounted RDS are becoming increasingly popular and departments everywhere are discussing the accessory.

A simple Google search will display dozens of departments nationwide who have made the switch to RDS, and often, their means of purchase. Since RDS isn’t exactly a cheap accessory—accuracy is critical, so understandably quality materials and precision cost more—some departments have to get creative with finding funds, whether it be through a fundraiser, donation or grant. This goes to show the dedication departments have to improving their officer’s abilities in the field.

So why do departments care so much about RDS? Simply stated, RDS allows officers to focus on the threat while overlaying the dot on its intended point of impact. It is easier, quicker and more accurate, making it a valuable tool to decrease liability in officer involved shootings. But as with any new technology, before jumping in, departments must fully understand both the transition from iron sights to RDS, as well as the pros and cons of this accessory.

To begin, the pistol mounted RDS was originated and popularized by Aimpoint®, which offers several models and versions, depending on the specific need. Differences can include MOA dot size, night vision settings, weight, submersible abilities, length and more—providing departments with the best accessories to fit their officer’s jobs. However, with all of these abilities comes a learning curve. The learning curve will be especially steep for veteran officers who have spent their careers relying on iron sights. It becomes a matter of learning to rely and familiarize oneself with a new sighting system. This, in addition to cost of new equipment and training, are the biggest cons to RDS.

That said, the pros to RDS are substantial. Some of the most notable are:

  • A pronounced jump in accuracy and passing scores for new recruits
  • Ability to aim with both eyes open, increasing situational awareness while reducing cross-dominance eye issues
  • Aid in shooter diagnostics, particularly isolation of the trigger

While the RDS is revolutionary, it does not replace the already-established fundamentals all officers know and were trained on. Stance, grip, trigger control and follow-through do not change, so officers simply need training on using the accessory. This reduces the learning curve to just learning the accessory, not having to change or relearn anything previously taught by instructors or the academy.

To aid in easing the learning curve, while also increasing one’s familiarity and expertise with the accessory, VirTra created a 4-hour nationally-certified course on the pistol mounted RDS. Titled “Red Dot Optic Training & Sustainment,” this course was created in collaboration with Victory First® utilizing the Acro P-2 by Aimpoint®. Instructors receive all materials needed to teach the course, such as pre-tests, surveys, rosters, instructor’s manual and, best of all, 21 training drills that are compatible with VirTra simulators to test the officer’s knowledge and RDS skill.

After all, classroom teaching can only get an officer so far. Extensive range training—whether it be on a physical range or virtual—allows for increased practice and familiarity that easily transitions to the field. VirTra’s virtual range is especially beneficial, as instructors can easily provide range training with the RDS right there in the classroom. Gone are the days of expensive marksmanship training, or that done with iron sights.

Since Pistol mounted RDS is a relatively new technology, your department may not utilize it, or at least not completely. But as your department transitions and modernizes, to ensure your officers are properly trained on this accessory, remember to train with nationally-certified materials. “Red Dot Optic Training & Sustainment” can help your department, no matter the size, unique difficulties or learning curve. Now is the time to embrace new technology, implement it and stay two steps ahead.

In discussing the difference between VR and AR Training with Police Magazine, Lon Bartel, director of training and curriculum for VirTra, touched on some points that explain why Augmented Reality Training for law enforcement can be more effective than VR.

The first problem addressed with Virtual Reality was “VR sickness” which is caused by the cognitive disconnect of when your senses are perceiving movement but your body is relatively still. Some trainers try to lessen this by having students sit in chairs while they are wearing the headsets but this can cause more harm than good when training.

Bartel further talks about how training in this way could cause bad training scars in that it trains students in practice to not move from the line when they feel the need to use force because they might bump into something or make themselves sick. Which is where Augmented Reality Training comes in to combat this.

AR allows students to utilize and move around their real environment by having the system insert people or items in order to enhance the real-world space that they are in. This is different from VR because the student’s senses and the body’s movement are less likely to contradict each other, mitigating the sickness that comes with Virtual Reality.

Another point Bartel touches on is the use of CGI in VR training. With CGI characters, students are likely to experience the Uncanny Valley effect, which explains that people would be, “repelled and revolted by interactions with robots that appear ‘almost human’ but not exactly human”.

This creates a challenge in de-escalation and use-of-force training because the CGI characters are unable to represent the subtleties of human behavior. Students are then faced with the difficulty in be unable to read the character’s emotions and not knowing if they are reacting to the threat or the “subconscious aversion” that they have towards the virtual character.

Conversely, Augmented Reality allows agencies to place real people to play the roles of the characters in the training scenarios. Additionally, these “characters” are able to exist in the real space that the student is in. Thus, the student is interacting with humans displaying real emotions in a real-world space, creating a more effective training environment.

To learn more and read the full article, click here!

When selecting a training method for your officers, you want to make sure that you are choosing one that has scientific evidence behind it while also keeping your teams engaged and retention rates up. You can get all of these things when you train with the VirTra simulators!

VirTra prides itself in its work with science-based technology for law enforcement. With that, our technology and curriculums are designed to immerse trainees into real-world scenarios that help them develop their decision-making skills, firearm skills and much more in a way that has been proven to be effective.


Different Training Applications

With the simulator comes a variety of training applications and focuses. From crisis response and de-escalation to marksmanship, different trainers will likely all choose different focuses depending on what they see as a priority at the time. But all of these focuses play important roles in rounding out the officer training experience.

One question some might have is how to train their officers in all these different ways without overwhelming them with so much information that they are no longer processing and retaining it. David Blake, police practices/force response expert and law enforcement trainer, did some research on how to keep learner retention up and found information on trainees’ limited processing capabilities and how training simulators can play a part in increased learner retention.

He found a concept that was studied called Cognitive Load Theory. Cognitive Load Theory suggests that learners have a limited amount of mental resources that can be divided into three categories; intrinsic, extraneous, and germane loads. Blake explains, “In general, our instructional goal should be to manipulate intrinsic load into manageable pieces while decreasing extraneous load and increasing germane load for optimal learning”.

Which, in simpler terms, means that trainers should break the content into desirable difficulty pieces, minimize unnecessary information, and decreasing the number of training methods to help achieve long-term memory storage for trainees.


Learn and Retain

Blake goes on to explain that training simulators are a really useful way to implement this suggestion. Students can learn through watching their trainer go through a scenario, pausing at key points for them to ask questions and absorb the information. When they are ready students can then work through the scenarios on their own, still pausing at key points to absorb their simulated surroundings and answer the problem before continuing. Eventually, students will be able to run through the scenarios fully on their own with no pauses.

He concludes that using the simulator in this way is an effective method because, “The student’s full attentional resources are focused on the learning objective instead of those goals being lost in the dynamics of the scenario”.

To read through the whole study called Force Options Simulators: An Underutilized Training Tool by Dave Blake, click here!


Contact Us!

For more information on our science and research-based simulators and curriculum, contact a VirTra specialist today!

Are you testing or training your team? It seems like an easy question to answer.

Conceptually we all understand we need to educate our people before we test them. We want to provide students and officers with the material and skills they need to perform critical tasks, let them develop in those areas and then be tested.

However, do you fire up your simulator, place your students into a highly immersive and realistic environment, and run them through a scenario, finishing by telling them what they did right and what they did wrong? If you answered “Yes,” then you are only testing them. They showed up, you gave them a problem to solve, they solved it and then you evaluated them. By definition, that would be a test, not training.


Avoid Information Overload

There can be some training value in a test, but do not confuse testing and training. Seasoned trainers know that if you provide too much feedback on too many areas the information won’t stay with the student. I have seen this occur with many debriefs. Trainers throw out too much information for students to digest, but the assumption is that if it was covered in a debriefing, the student learned from it. How do you know they learned? How much of your feedback was integrated? Did you retest to find out?

Let me give you a real-world example. Pretend you showed up for College Algebra and I, as the instructor, hand you a test and ask you to complete it. You turn it in, and I grade your answers and make corrections to any wrong answers. I then tell you what you did right and what you did wrong and give you a grade. But were you trained? Were you ever trained to do the math topic first? Did you get to practice a similar equation to ensure you could transfer the concept to the test? Did I use a consistent method to ensure you have an understanding of the expectations? Were you provided a “worked problem” to help guide your actions? This kind of example has been applied to training methods as far back as the 1980s.


How we Learn

In 1988, Dr. John Sweller presented evidence that conventional problem-solving activities such as taking tests do not effectively develop a schema1. A schema is a file folder that our brain creates to identify, group and relate to things. We develop a schema when we do things like throw a football or draw a firearm. Developing schemas is how we learn. To do it, we have to have enough working memory available to move what we are working on in our head to our long-term memory. If the working memory is overburdened with problem solving (completing the test), then we cannot effectively move it to our long-term memory. This means we can’t effectively develop a schema, or learn from the experience if it is under too much pressure or load.

One way that working memory gets overloaded is when we are engaged in complex problem-solving. Dr. Sweller referred to it as cognitive load – when the cognitive load is too high, effective learning is compromised. If you give your students a problem and their working memory is filled up by trying to answer the problem, they have no reserve to move the lesson into long-term memory effectively.

However, Dr. Sweller’s work did not say you can’t learn from taking a test. He said it is not as effective as other methods such as a “worked problem.” The use of a “worked problem” is a method to help facilitate the development of a schema with a structured presentation of the problem and only partial amounts of the solution provided. This requires the student to “fill in the blanks” of what has not been provided. Providing a partial answer to the student allows for less of their working memory to be tied up in problem-solving. Think of it as a study guide to an exam.


The Value of a Training Plan

Even officers who have “had the class before” may need to knock the dust off or warm up their skills again. From the research, we know feedback is critical to better performances. An important aspect of feedback is that it is timely, which means it needs to be close enough to the behavior to be able to relate, such as telling your dog “bad dog” for chewing on your shoe 10 minutes ago has no meaning to the dog in the present moment in time. These same principles should apply to law enforcement training. If you wait to the end of the scenario to provide seven points of correction to debrief on, are you sure the points from the start actually stick? If you are not giving a test, why not pause the event at the first point of error and correct it? Letting an error compound as the event unfolds has little training value.

Instead, by developing a specifically written curriculum you will ensure you are effectively using any simulated event training. It must be more than just a list of what events you are going to run. Do you have a pre-test, post-test, evaluation rubric, performance objectives and scripted presentation materials? For example, VirTra’s V-VICTA™ program provides a step-by- step curriculum in a prescribed format to ensure that a training plan is carried out. There is nothing that says effective training requires a student to fail miserably. We can let them make an error, pause the event and discuss the current behavior. Afterward, we get them to dig in and truly understand the mistake. This makes debriefing a valuable part of the training and helps reinforce the schema required for learning to take place. Without effective debriefing as a crucial component of training, we are only testing the students. Few trainers will get to an opportunity to re-test and see if any transfer takes place.

So, ask yourself. Are you testing or training your team?



  1. Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive Load During Problem Solving: Effects on Learning. Cognitive Science 12, 257-285.

There’s no such thing as a professional bystander. You can’t consider yourself a “professional” if you aren’t going to take action when you see something wrong being done by a co-worker. In law enforcement, your failure to intervene could result in discipline, losing your job, being sued civilly or even being charged criminally.

Not only can this affect the individual officer, but it also has a direct effect on the public perception of law enforcement as a whole. These types of incidents thrusts law enforcement into the national spotlight. A spotlight that has played a role in American’s confidence in law enforcement dropping to 48%.

What does it mean to fail to intervene? In a nutshell, it means that an officer who purposefully allows a fellow officer to violate a person’s Constitutional rights may be prosecuted for failure to intervene to stop the Constitutional violation. (Department of Justice, n.d.)

The next question you might have is, “Who does this apply to?” When it comes to an officer’s duty to intervene, courts have stated that it applies to EVERY officer of EVERY rank, including all levels of command staff. (Putman v. Gerloff, 1981). The duty to intervene even carries across situations that might involve officers from different agencies working together.

Courts recognize that not all situations can be stopped by an intervening officer. For example, an officer that runs up to a suspect and punches them before you even had time to realize what was happening. In cases like this, courts recognize that an officer does not always have an opportunity to stop the other person’s action. While you may not be able to stop the action when it occurs, you still must follow through with reporting the unconstitutional act in an appropriate and timely manner.

Failing to take action is only half of this discussion. The other half must deal with HOW you should take action. Many officers have never been exposed to this type of training, so they are unsure on what their options are, as well as what their obligations might be.

But don’t worry, VirTra has you covered!

In our upcoming V-VICTA® curriculum, “Duty to Intervene: No Such Thing as a Professional Bystander,” we will give your agency all the tools needed to work through or even avoid a circumstance where officers need to intervene.

You will learn how having the correct policies in place can help avoid these types of situations. It also discusses the types of training officers should stay up to date on, as well as best practices that have worked in other agencies.

Included with the curriculum is a set of custom-made videos for students and instructors to watch and discuss how they would handle what occurred in the videos. There will also be brand new scenarios that were designed around the duty to intervene training. The new scenarios include a vehicle contact, a suspicious person, and a large-scale protest. The entire course can be done within your VirTra simulator and can provide your officers with 2 hours of IADLEST certified training.

Stay Safe. Stay Dedicated.




When shopping for televisions, speakers, smartphones, etc., consumers understand variations of these technologies exist. When shopping for a TV, you consider clarity, size, features and more. So why wouldn’t you do the same research when making an important purchase— training for your department?

Variations of law enforcement training tools exist, but not all provide the same results. Using screens and projectors gives an entirely different experience and result when compared to virtual reality (VR) goggles/headsets. VR is an improving and promising technology, but it is still not up to the task of training officers. Training is a task that requires high fidelity environments that immerse officers.


Avoiding Negative Training

Training scars – also called negative training – occurs when what you do in the classroom does not accurately match what is done in the real world. VR is lightweight and compact, plus the shiny new technology can sway agencies, but how is the training content?

Marksmanship is just one example of how dangerous negative training can occur with VR. When aiming a replica weapon with VR goggles on, the ballistic accuracy is not accurate enough to provide an experience that transfers to the field. The movement is not realistic, and one company even has trainees sitting down in order to use a CEW device. Officers are seldom seated when deploying a CEW weapon, so this can cause accuracy issues when trainees are moved into a real-life situation.


Quality & Depth of Training Content

VirTra’s scenarios are video-based, and for good reasons. Filmed with professional equipment and real actors, the goal is for the scenarios to be immersive and lifelike. This allows officers to develop empathy for on-screen characters, just as they would in reality. CGI has drastically improved over the years as we have seen in movies and video games, but VR training graphics tend to be cartoon-like and do not elicit empathetic response.

Low quality simulation can also feed into the previously discussed topic of negative training. When simulated humans are unrealistic, it is likely that trainees will not be able to pick up on subtle visual cues such as expressions and minor motions. It is also unlikely that officers will be able to experience stress in the same way as they would if they were interacting with a video-based character. If the environment is not realistic, recruits will not take it seriously.

VirTra’s Co-CEO Bob Ferris and Director of Training Lon Bartel have explored this topic. If you would like to learn more about the differences between VR and screen-based simulation training options, click here: All That Glitters is Not Gold with VR Headsets_VirTra_Whitepaper

While Individual First Aid Kits (IFAK) are increasingly popular among law enforcement personnel, they have been popular in the military since the late 1990s. The increase in popularity comes as a result of lessons learned during the Global War on Terror. As a young EMT, I can remember a time when it was a common belief that the tourniquet should only be used as a last resort. Those beliefs no longer stand among the military and first responder medical communities. So many lessons have been learned and lives have been saved due to new technologies and interventions.

The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the new interventions and protocols and provide a list of items that are important to me as a first responder. My personal list of items which I keep in my IFAK is not comprehensive, but it’s meant to provide a jumping-off spot for further discussion in your agency. A couple points to make before we start:

Having an IFAK on you is as important as your duty sidearm. Personally, I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Oftentimes, the best medicine on the battlefield is fire superiority. If you find yourself in a situation where you are operating as a solo unit having an IFAK on you increases your survivability. Once the deadly force threat has been dealt with, you can begin administering lifesaving treatments to yourself while you wait for responding units to arrive. If your agency allows you to wear an IFAK on your outer vest it is important to place your IFAK in a place that is easily accessible with either hand. Remember, your IFAK is for you. It is not intended to be used to treat others – that is what your first responder bag is for.

Remember the old military first aid adage: “Start the Breathing, Stop the Bleeding, Protect the Wound, Treat for Shock”?  That was a pretty solid assessment protocol, and although it’s been replaced with the M.A.R.C.H. acronym, it still stands as a good standard for what we should consider our priorities for building our IFAK.



Breathing is self-explanatory, realizing that “shot ain’t dead” is an important part of any good battle plan. Autogenic training is often utilized in sport psychology, in particular, but it can benefit people in a wide range of stressful situations. It uses the body’s natural relaxation response to counteract unwanted mental and physical stimuli. Through the use of breathing techniques, and positive self-talk, autogenic breathing can help to reduce stress allowing injured officers to slow their heartrates down, decrease blood pressure and enables them to think more clearly.

While nothing in your IFAK can stimulate you to spontaneously begin autogenic breathing it is important to train in this technique. In our training room at VirTra, often times our trainers will train students to begin autogenic breathing as part of the draw stroke during deadly force encounters.

Another important item to keep in your IFAK is a Nasopharyngeal Airway (NPA). If you are unconscious and unable to protect your own airway, it is quick and easy way for arriving officers to secure your airway. Funny story – in IFAK training we learned how to insert an NPA by doing it on ourselves. It was uncomfortable to say the least, but provided a ton of comic relief as we watched our partners with watering eyes, sneezing and gagging.



An adult human body carries 1.2 and 1.5 gallons of blood. Generally speaking, hypovolemic shock can occur when individuals lose 20% or more of their total blood volume. Depending on where an individual is bleeding from indicates how you can stop the bleeding.

Tourniquets are a great way to stop heavy blood flow from the extremities. There are some rules for applying them, however. If you are not able to control blood flow with direct pressure and elevation simultaneously applied, a tourniquet is needed. “High and tight” is a good principle to apply when placing a tourniquet. Tourniquets should not be placed in double bone areas like the lower leg or forearms. If an arterial bleed happens in those areas a tourniquet can be placed above the knee or elbow. I carry two tourniquets in my IFAK for two reasons. First, we have two Femoral Arteries. Second, if the first tourniquet is failing to control the bleeding, another tourniquet can be placed higher up on the limb (proximal) above the first one.

In areas of the body where a tourniquet cannot be applied, it is important to be able to pack the wound. Penetrating injuries in areas like the inguinal region are difficult to treat. First responders must be able to pack the wound to control bleeding. For this, I like to use Quick Clot gauze or Celox gauze. While packing a wound is difficult is important to remember that the femoral artery runs through the inguinal region. Proper packing techniques must be employed keeping direct pressure on the artery while “plugging the hole.” I keep two packs of quick clot gauze in my IFAK in the event that additional packing is required.

A sucking chest wound can lead to a collapsed lung pretty quickly. For penetrating wounds to the chest, I like to use the Hyfin Chest seal. This chest seal provides 3-vented channels designed to prevent airflow into the chest cavity during inhalation while allowing air to escape through the vent channels during exhalation. I like to keep two seals in my IFAK in the event I need plug an exit wound as well as an entry wound. Don’t forget to do your blood sweeps looking for indications of an exit wound.


Protecting the Wound

To protect the wound, it is important to have a good trauma dressing. My preference is the Israeli trauma dressing because the design contains a plastic clamp that if applied correctly applies additional direct pressure to the wound.  There is other dressing available such as cravat triangular bandage, sterile gauze or a 4×4 pad. With the exception of the chest seal, it’s important to remember that no bandage is complete until it’s dressed. The wound needs to be protected and simply applying a tourniquet is not the end of the intervention. I carry two Israeli Trauma Dressings because I was taught that “Two is One, and One is None.” Medical tape is another item that is extremely useful for protecting the wound. It is used to secure the dressing.


Treat for Shock

Without going into a discussion about the four types of shock, it’s important to understand that keeping our patient warm and comfortable until the bus arrives is vital. I don’t carry a Mylar blanket in my IFAK, but this another good place to begin autogenic breathing to lower your heartrate and decrease stress and lower your blood pressure.

At VirTra our system includes several scenarios that would lend themselves to IFAK training. Take for example the Scenario titled “Nightmare Alley” – a good practice would be as the cover officer quickly ending the threat, then turning to see your partner laying on the ground with his IFAK on. You would quickly assess his injuries and begin proper interventions. We have several scenarios that can be used to sharpen your medical first responder skills.


If you need assistance coming up with training ideas, feel free to contact VirTra SMEs for any suggestions on what scenarios will fit your needs.

Traumatic stress impacts memory. We tend to consider this when we investigate violent crimes such as sexual assault. We have evolved in our interviewing process with victims through techniques of trauma-informed interviewing, cognitive interviewing, and forensic interviewing. This growth has allowed us to better understand the considerations involved in memory, recall, and perspective.

We used to ask victims of sexual assaults horrifying questions: What were you wearing? Did you say no? Did you fight back…no? Why not? Tell me what he looked like. You can’t? Why can’t you describe him to me? We caught the guy who raped you…why didn’t you tell me he had tattoos all over his face?


What changed?

We did. We were not serving victims and survivors in the best manner possible. We learned, grew, and evolved in our craft to provide grounded and compassionate care within the investigative process.


What did we learn?

We learned that information gathered during an interview can be compromised by flawed interviewing, questioning, or interrogation practices.(1) Interviews that are structured chronologically, in a directive manner, comprised primarily of close ended questions, and conducted by multiple individuals do not fall within best practices. We learned that leading questions raise concerns in almost any interview as they tend to suggest their own answer. Interviewers and investigators may experience “leading question bias” where the interviewer directs the question toward the answer they want or what they subjectively think to be true.

We learned that when an individual experiences an overwhelming or traumatic event, there should be protocols in place to protect the individual from additional trauma during the interview process. Trauma-informed interviewing allows for a non-threatening, conversational approach that avoids interrogation methods.(2) Cognitive interviewing is structured to enhance memory recall and minimize memory confabulation. There is a misperception in law enforcement investigations that an individual with a lack of linear memory is deliberately lying. We have now learned that a lack of linear memory can be a sign of trauma.

We learned a person’s frame of mind and amount of sleep impact memory consolidation and recall. Sleep is essential for memory formation and consolidation.(3) Unconsolidated memory is fragile and can be disrupted by various types of interference. Two sleep cycles may be necessary for memory consolidation to occur.(4) During an overwhelming event that activates an acute stress response, there is a loss or reduction in the functioning of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This impacts our executive function, or what would be basic reasoning, weighing of options for decision-making, emotional regulation, impulse control, access to working memory, and memory consolidation.

After a traumatic experience, intentional and unintentional remembering can introduce new details that, over time, assimilate into a person’s memory for the event.(5)  Studies show that individuals can experience events that they have not in reality experienced.(6) This is known as confabulation.

Confabulation is a type of memory error in which gaps in a person’s memory are unconsciously filled with fabricated, misinterpreted, or distorted information.(7) The most common type of confabulation is provoked confabulation which occurs when someone creates an untrue story in response to a specific question. It is critical to recognize that there is no deliberate attempt to lie or provide false information.

Memory conformity may present when two people see the same event and discuss it and one person’s memory influences what the other person claims to remember.(8) Memory conformity can occur from a discussion or conversation, reading a review of another person’s incident perspective, or from watching a video of the event.

These are just a few of the things we have discovered over the years to better serve victims of violent crime. But my question to you is this: Why are we not bringing these practices to investigations when officers experience critical incidents?

We should all agree from a macro view that critical incidents are traumatic stress events. The difference in how a traumatic event is processed is the micro level of an individual’s coping skills, ability to tolerate stressors, and support system (to name just a few).

We have evolved in our support of victims who experience violence, let’s continue that evolution to include our officers.



  1. Gehl, R. & Plecas, D. (2016). Introduction to Criminal Investigation: Processes, Practices and Thinking. New Westminster, BC: Justice Institute of British Columbia.
  2. Flores, L. & Phelps, K. (2017). Trauma Informed Interviewing Techniques Best Practices for Working with Trauma Survivors. Biannual Asylum Law Seminar.
  3. Klinzing J., Niethard, N., Born, J. (2019). Mechanisms of systems memory consolidation during sleep. Nat Neurosci 2019 Oct;22(10):1598-1610
  4. McGaugh J. (2000). Memory–a century of consolidation. Science. 2000 Jan 14;287(5451):248-51. doi: 10.1126/science.287.5451.248. PMID: 10634773
  5. Strange, D., & Takarangi, M. K. (2015). Memory distortion for traumatic events: the role of mental imagery. Frontiers in psychiatry6, 27.
  6. British Psychology Society Research Board Working Group (2008). Guidelines on memory and the law: recommendations from the scientific study of human memory. British Psychological Society
  7. Triviño M, Ródenas E, Lupiáñez J, Arnedo M (2017). Effectiveness of a neuropsychological treatment for confabulations after brain injury: A clinical trial with theoretical implications. PLoS ONE 12(3): e0173166.
  8. Gabbert F, Memon A, Wright DB. Memory conformity: disentangling the steps toward influence during a discussion. Psychon Bull Rev. 2006 Jun;13(3):480-5. doi: 10.3758/bf03193873. PMID: 17048734.

Creating training material for 1 hour of training can take at least 82 hours (1). This only includes writing the course, not the effort of presenting or certifying material. You do not have to go through all the work that adds up to extra staffing hours and cost. The option of online learning is a smart and effective alternative. Start with Certified Training Alliance (CTA).

Designed for First Responders and Public Safety Officials, CTA is a simple-to-use, easy to access online learning system that relieves the burden of scheduling time to train and certify personnel.


VirTra’s Online Courses

Certified Training Alliance features several of VirTra’s certified coursework. These courses do not require your agency to have a simulator. If you do, however, many work in tandem with simulated scenarios. Learning online and then putting newly-acquired skills into practice in the simulator further reinforces learning.

Additionally, if you are waiting to be able to obtain a VirTra simulator, a good way to get started on coursework would be to utilize the courses in CTA. It can allow students to familiarize themselves with the topics at hand and give instructors a chance to review the material as well.

We do our best to include courses that are timely and relevant to what is important to law enforcement. These include:

  • Weapon Transitions
  • De-Escalation
  • Mental Illness
  • Autism Awareness


Benefits for Adult Learning

VirTra’s material uses iconography and imagery to ensure the user stays focused, and provide great opportunities for long-term learning. With the right amount of storytelling and video content, the goal is to keep the learner engaged and not thinking about what they are going to order for dinner instead. We are using adult learning methods to help to ensure transfer (learning long-term).

Additionally, all courses on CTA – even those not authored by VirTra – do not have the option to be skipped or sped through. Even if a user were to minimize the window, the course would simply stop – resuming when the user has the window up again. A certificate of completion will be available for download only when the course is completed and the test is passed.


How to Get Started

It’s free and simple to get started – you don’t need to pay to sign up! To see the full list of courses available by VirTra, Force Science, ILET and Tony Blauer, just create an account and scroll through!

You can utilize essential or premium courses with the ability to access them for up to a year. Premium courses are created in partnership with leading industry experts. There are also course bundles available!

To sign up, all you have to do is create an account on the website here. Courses will be added over time, so be sure to keep an eye out.



Chapman, B. (2010). How Long Does it Take to Create Learning? [Research Study]. Published by Chapman Alliance LLC.