Every once in a while, you hear about an encounter with a civilian that proved to be a close call. Whether it’s from a news story or a fellow officer, it’s nerve-wracking to think it could happen to you. Even some of VirTra’s training scenarios that recruits might think will never happen, very well could happen.
A recent example of this occurred in Oakland, California. An officer from Oakland Police Department was able to get out of a terrifying situation that may have turned deadly. Crediting the great response of his backup and the solid training he had received, he was unharmed.
Though a knife or gun are the typical weapon of choice, some subjects are more creative, such as the male the Oakland PD officer encountered. The object appeared at first as a long stick from afar, but as they made contact, the officer could see that it was a sheathed sword.
The Oakland officer recalled the following details about this encounter:
“I asked him to put the sword down on the hood of a nearby vehicle. The male complied and I called officers that were on duty and told him to send me cover units for a man armed with a sword. I continued to stall the male while waiting for cover units. The male continued to put his hands in his pocket and continued to move closer to the sword. I continued to tell the male to keep his hands out of his pocket and to back away from the sword. The male would comply but would continue the same behavior. I continued to update on the phone with the officer of the situation while waiting for the cover units. The male continued to move towards the sword. I then grabbed the sword from the hood of the car to prevent him from reaching it.”
The officer’s backup arrived shortly after and were able to take the man into custody with no further issues.
Oakland PD’s Training Academy has been using their V-300® since 2020. Training in the simulator and going through various de-escalations has helped the responding officer make safe decisions quickly. He found that the many scenarios that allow de-escalation and “talking through” situations were of assistance. This was especially the case when he had to delay the agitated male while waiting for backup.
“I believe VirTra is a great training tool and helps prepare officers in dealing with similar situations using practical and realistic scenarios” said the Oakland PD officer. “It allows you to go through scenarios and debrief what went right and what you could possibly do differently. He also mentioned that using VirTra as a training method is fun and keeps officers engaged.
When asked how he believes other officers should utilize VirTra scenarios, he answered simply. “Take the training seriously.” Instead of gaming the system or running through scenarios as if they were just a ‘check-the-box’ training event, go through them as if they were really happening, he suggested.
VirTra’s scenarios are filmed in video – not unrealistic CGI – for exactly this reason. Content developers and subject matter experts believe in the power of high-fidelity scenarios to create lifelike events. Every situation is different; some requiring force, others requiring verbal communication. In the story told by the Oakland PD officer, he was able to resolve a terrifying situation by simply communicating.
“I think the most important thing in these situations is to remain calm and rely on your training and the help of your fellow officers,” he said in conclusion after recounting the event.
*Special thanks to Oakland PD and the Oakland Training Academy for sharing their success story.
Imagine you are training in an immersive law enforcement simulator. The screens darken, then light up with a desert scene as the dispatch relays information on the call you are responding to. Pedestrians give you further information about the event, then point you towards a man sitting on a ledge. It becomes clear: this is a suicide call and you need to carefully persuade the man to seek help, not jump.
This is a difficult situation, but a necessary one to train for, as any officer can be called to prevent suicide. But as important as the training topic is, the method of training is just as important. For officers who train with VirTra’s systems, the scenario will unfold based on the officer’s actions and words, creating real-life training designed to benefit both officers and their communities. Officers can train in the same scenario multiple times, trying new de-escalation tactics or certain phrases, then see how the situation plays out. Does an action cause the man to comply, lash out or jump? Which verbiage best comes into play here? Instructors watch over the trainees and, depending on the officer’s choices, they choose the applicable branch in the situation and thus create a new ending.
The simulator itself is an incredible training tool, but what about combining the classroom and the simulator? VirTra created the V-VICTA® program, which is a series of nationally-certified curriculum that is first taught in the classroom then practiced in the simulator. This all-in-one training solution instills proper training and knowledge transfer, thus helping officers remember their training in the field and utilize it to help those around them.
For example, one V-VICTA curriculum is “Autism Awareness.” This material teaches officers how to identify possible autistic behaviors and the best ways to interact with the subject. Officers who aren’t taught how to recognize and react accordingly to these behaviors could put the subject or themselves at risk. And, according to data from the CDC, 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with autism, making it extremely likely that every field officer will interact with someone on the spectrum. To improve safety for officers and every member of their community, they must first know how to best interact with every member of the community.
Officer training is complex, but it is always centered around safety—for subjects, bystanders, partners and oneself. To learn more about VirTra’s V-VICTA training curriculum, or to try a training simulator at an upcoming trade show, contact a VirTra specialist.
There are key phrases that we hear in law enforcement training and culture. These include “I got your six” “watch your six” or “check your six.” These are referencing the importance of being able to look behind you at the 6 o’clock position to keep yourself safe and not get ambushed from behind. This “checking six” could be done by you by keeping your head “on a swivel” or by a partner who is “covering your six.”
These phrases are embedded in the vernacular of law enforcement and the military. Why is this the case? Because history has shown the attack we don’t see coming is the one that is going to take us out. By getting in the habit of “checking 6” we can negate the danger that resides in attacks from behind. These are an overwhelming threat, which needs to be addressed and trained for. With this principle being so critical to officer safety, why do we do such a horrible job training for them?
I have watched what Pat McNamara has called range theatrics – or what others have called the range dance. Where after a live-fire string we do a ‘body-turn, head-turn’ pretending to “check six” but don’t see anything. I have held up large printed cards and fingers and asked folks after their dance to tell me what they saw. I have held up fingers to see if they can identify the number and which ones are up. The universal answer is, “what do you mean?” The reason for this answer is that they don’t actually “see” anything. When it came to the fingers it was usually one held up and you can imagine which one based on the lack of situational awareness ability demonstrated.
This same thing can happen with single-screen training simulators. If not used properly, with a single-screen system, you are running the risk of building in training scars. The concept that we “don’t rise to the occasion, we default to our lowest level of training” has to be evaluated in this light. If we are creating emotional states inside the simulation (and we should be) yet we are not engaging in physical and mental skills we need in the real world, we could be creating failure points.
Single-screen systems are insanely difficult to create reverse angles on – not impossible, but difficult. The minimum standard to ensure this task can be done with high fidelity is a 180-degree system. This allows for that reverse angle to be threatened and the need to “check six.” You can create points of reference that requires the participant’s scan behavior by using simulated doors and windows taped off in a single-screen room, but that is not high fidelity. VirTra knew the value of a multiscreen system over 20 years ago – despite naysayers arguing that it was “too much” and “unnecessary.” VirTra pushed the training principle anyway.
I get it – most agencies will buy a single screen system and be thrilled they are running their judgmental shoot or weapon transitions. It is not bad to train with them if you are short on space, but it does not take much more room to set up a 180-degree high-quality simulator and force these angles. When it comes to purchasing a 180-degree or 300-degree system, I have heard the arguments on cost as well. VirTra offers a STEP program where access to the simulator is subscription-based and not a large capital purchase. This STEP program allows much access to a high-fidelity 180-degree/300-degree simulator for a lower starting point.
You can find space, even pairing up and hosting it with a research institute. There are ways to make high-quality high-fidelity 180-degree or ideally 300-degree simulators affordable, which are amazing training tools. They can be used for active threat/active killer (ATAK), TASER training, de-escalation, VirTra is here to make it affordable with the STEP program, because we got your six (IGY6)!
For more information on the STEP program, our content or our simulators, Contact Us.
The 5-screen, 300-degree V-300® was recently used in a study to determine the perceived effectiveness of simulation training for law enforcement. The way officers perceive the effectiveness of a style of training can affect how they perform – and by using the V-300, the study aimed to identify how officers perceive the “transferability of the training to the field” and how it compares to other types of training (p. 4).
The research article is titled “The association between participant characteristics and perceptions of the effectiveness of law enforcement tactical simulation training.” The study was written by members of the Lockwood Department of Criminal Justice as well as Monmouth University. It examined the perception of simulator training by 417 participating police officers and noted predictors of these perceptions.
As mentioned above, trainees who find a type of training valuable have a much higher chance of applying what they learned into real-world settings. The study found that “the vast majority of participants” believe the V-300 simulator training to be effective and transferrable (p. 9).
Additionally, the study provided numerous insights into simulation training. Researchers analyzed how various types of officers view and accept different training styles. Since the study included a variety of ages, races, education levels and ranks, the study was able to establish connections. Here are some interesting finds from the ‘Results’ and ‘Discussion’ sections (pp. 7-9):
• 90.1% of participating officers and recruits reported that the training provided ‘above average’ training in preparation for encounters with civilians.
• Participants employed by a municipal police department particularly believed the simulator to be effective, more so than other agency types.
• Older officers were less likely to believe simulator training is effective.
• More educated participants (bachelor’s degree or higher) were more likely to perceive the training as effective.
John Comiskey, Brian Lockwood, Shannon Cunningham & Julia Arminio (2021) The association between participant characteristics and perceptions of the effectiveness of law enforcement tactical simulator training, Police Practice and Research, 22:6, 1655-1667, DOI: 10.1080/15614263.2021.1948848
“Keep your head on a swivel!” It is a phrase drilled into every trainee, every officer consistently by all instructors. There is no wonder why; knowing your surroundings at all times is critical, as it allows you to pinpoint threats, alternate routes, people in danger and more. But for this action to become second-nature, it must be practiced constantly, starting in the academy and continuing throughout one’s policing career.
The good news is that most training events can teach officers to keep their heads on a swivel. For example, VirTra’s V-180® and V-300® immersive training simulators are designed to do just that.
The V-180 is a three-screen, 180-degree simulator which officers step up to. By surrounding the officer in VirTra’s seamless high-resolution video, officers feel like they are standing in the shown environment—not the classroom. As the scenario progresses, people and actions will occur on all three screens, teaching trainees to look around the alley, home, or other shown environment to fully understand the situation. To further training and reduce repetition, instructors have the ability to alter branches in the event, thus creating new events on different screens.
While the V-180 is a powerful training tool, the V-300 is the best law enforcement training simulator on the market. Instead of 3 screens, the V-300 boasts 5 screens, which surrounds officers in 300-degrees of real-life action. This training simulator takes the lesson “keep your head on a swivel” to the next level by requiring officers to move around the simulator to get all angles on the situation.
A bigger training simulator allows more officers to train simultaneously, such as a unit, learning to cover one another. Having more screens also allows the scenario to feature events on more screens, which is shown in the VirTra scenario below. Watch as these officers engage in an Active Threat / Active Killer situation, which forces them to move around the simulator to pinpoint and stop all threats.
Teaching your officers to keep their heads on a swivel is a critical tool that may save their lives—and the lives of civilians and suspects alike—in the field. To learn more about how VirTra can aid in this skill, or try it for yourself at an upcoming trade show, talk to a VirTra specialist.
Ambush style attacks against police officers have been on the rise lately. Since 2017 in the Phoenix area alone, there has been a 31% increase in assaults against law enforcement. The reasons for the increase in attacks on LE are a hot potato issue right now and not something that we can solve here in the trainer’s corner blog, but we can look at how ambush attacks roll out and what we might be able to do to mitigate the damage. I want to look at some common themes that we see in most ambushes.
The first is the element of surprise. We rarely have the advantage of being able to contact our suspects at the time and place of our choosing. If you’ve ever been on a Bicycle Patrol Unit you know the feeling of turning into a blind alley and being faced with a group of fellas who didn’t expect to see five-o rolling up on a bicycle. Most often you just caught them at their most vulnerable and least advantageous point. The same applies to the officer. Often times a suspect can feign compliance and lure an officer into a false sense of security. It’s at moments like this that we become vulnerable.
You may have seen the recent incident in Phoenix where nine officers were shot or injured in a call for service at a residence. As the first officer arrives ,the suspects tells him that a woman had been shot and was choking on her own blood. When the officer approaches the doorway to the residence the suspect opens fire. The suspect offered no pre-attack indicators as he stood there shirtless in the doorway smoking a cigarette. The officer had no indication that the suspect was holding a gun and the suspects demeanor was such that the officer had very little reason to believe that he posed a threat. The surprise of the attack was so fast that all the officer could do was retreat to cover and put out radio traffic.
The next factor concealment can be broken into 2 categories. Concealment of the assailant or concealment of a weapon. I wish I had a dollar for every time I went to find an individual at a known location and was told by somebody at the residence that the subject who I was looking for was not there. I often tell students that wolves travel in packs and that where there is one bad actor there is probably another nearby. Maintaining situational awareness or 360-degree security is paramount to our survivability on the street. While we don’t always have the option or necessity of a second officer on scene I always consider contact and cover to be the best option.
Watch the hands! The ten percent area (the front of the waist to the small of the back) is where most weapons are secured. A DOJ study found that 90% of the weapons found on suspects was found in this ten percent area. Suspects digging in their pockets or refusing to remove their hands from their pockets should be scrutinized. Since most people are right-handed, I always taught students to start scanning suspects at their right hand, moving quickly to the left hand and finally the face, rinse and repeat often. While the suspect’s face can’t really hurt anything but your feelings it can give you an impression of a suspect’s intentions. I know the old “Ask, Tell, Make” model is no longer in vogue in modern law enforcement DT classes, however a simple “touchless touch” compliance check can indicate to officers that the suspect has bad intentions toward them.
The next factor is the suddenness of the attack. Years ago, I was detailed to our agency’s critical incident team. Like any other agency the team was tasked with investigating use of force incidents and reporting the findings to the Chief. One of the most reported phenomena among the officers who were forced to use force was that they almost always said “It happened so fast.” Taking control of a situation and placing suspects in a position of disadvantage as quickly as possible is an important tactic to remember. If a suspect exits his vehicle without being told to do so he is either posturing for an encounter, looking to run or wants to separate himself from something in the vehicle. By quickly taking control of the suspect, we can disrupt his OODA loop cancelling his plans before he has time to act on them. Speed Surprise and Violence of Action are staples to our survivability in dynamic situations.
If you have seen the scenario “Nightmare Alley” on the VirTra system, you’ve seen a classic ambush situation. This scenario is based off an actual encounter. As the contact officer begins to control the suspect to make the arrest, a white SUV approaches from down the alley. While the tendency for some students is to get target fixated on the suspect as he struggles with the officer it is important to maintain 360-degree security. Depending on where the student has positioned himself inside the simulated environment, he can quickly pick up the threat coming from the SUV. Without giving up the scenario too much, instructors need to know that the suspect in that actual encounter had large amounts of narcotics on board and it did take several rounds to stop the threat.
If you have any ideas for scenarios that you would like to see developed or are interested in custom content specific to your AOR please feel free to reach out to any of our Law Enforcement SMEs on the training and curriculum team at VirTra. Stay safe and keep your head on a swivel.
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.
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.
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.
VirTra is excited to announce the V-Threat-Fire®: the third generation of powerful, consequence-inducing devices! This accessory is simple: attach the small device to the belt area of the trainee and when a psychological representation of an attack is necessary—say, simulated return fire, dog bites or explosions—instructors can activate the device. Instructors can choose whether the V-Threat-Fire emits an electric impulse from 0.2 seconds to 1 second, thus adding stress and realistic, safe ‘return fire’ or other negative consequences to the training simulator.
One of the most unique abilities about the V-Threat-Fire is the vibration ability. The V-Threat-Fire can also deliver vibrations only, allowing instructors to provide feedback without the electric impulse. Both the vibration and electric impulse versions are strong enough to penetrate through multiple layers of clothing for easy training with miniscule risk of any injury.
Regardless of which mode is selected, the V-Threat-Fire is safe and simple. For instructors, there is no need to focus on aiming, maintaining protective gear or cleaning up. This is because the V-Threat-Fire is activated via the Instructor’s Station, the same place where the training scenario is managed. Now, instructors can devote their visual focus to training—no need to visually multi-task.
Not all consequence devices are created equal, and as such, instructors need to be aware of the stress-inducing device they select. Below are a few of the more popular, and reasons to be wary:
While other companies attempt to create distraction or consequence devices, none are without serious side effects or potential personal harm. The best way to create stress and implement immediate consequences is through V-Threat-Fire’s vibrations or electric impulse. This provides all the stress of the real-world without requiring extra protective equipment, breaking training immersion or causing additional harm.
Contact a Sales representative to learn more about implementing V-Threat-Fire into your current training regimen!
You’re on foot patrol with your partner when you see a subject that you’ve had interactions with before. The two of you decide to speak to the subject, and proceed to walk down the alley to see what he is up to.
As you approach him, he decides to be uncooperative. He doesn’t want to talk to you, he starts to flail his arms and become more aggressive. As your partner attempts to arrest the subject, a white pickup truck suddenly pulls up on the street behind you. The driver immediately gets out and starts shooting, striking the subject and your partner. Your only option is to get off the ‘X’ and return fire in an attempt to stop this subject.
You fire your handgun, and immediately stop the threat. The simulator screens around you tell you to make your weapons safe and to prepare for a debrief. Congratulations, you just completed the “Nightmare Alley” scenario in the VirTra simulator.
The scenario sounded a bit far-fetched, didn’t it? What are the chances that while you’re out checking on a subject, some random guy is going to pull up and just start shooting at you? That wouldn’t really happen…would it?
As a matter of fact, that scenario DID happen, which is how it became a training event for the VirTra simulator. That brings us to the point of this article: How realistic is your training?
When you’re putting officers through scenario training, how much time do you put into the development of the event? What are you basing the scenarios on?
With the amount of body cam footage that is easily available, you should have no problem creating scenarios based on real-life incidents. Many of the high-profile incidents are routinely debriefed by training experts, so a lot of the legwork for you lesson plan is already done for you. The bonus of creating scenarios based on incidents that actually happened is that when a student decides to wise-off and shout “This would never happen!” It’s always a great feeling pulling out the “This Actually Happened” card.
When taking an actual incident and making it into a training scenario, it’s tempting to just copy it and call it “done.” What we do at VirTra – and what we suggest other trainers do – is first decide what the training goal is. Once that’s done, alter the scenario enough that it’s not easily recognizable by the trainees and that you’ll be able to have multiple ways to run the same scenario, but with different options based on how the trainee handles the incident.
Finally, using real incidents to create your training scenarios will give you and your agency a lot of validation on the training that it’s doing. Training to the actual situations officers are facing makes it a lot easier to justify that training.
Stay Safe. Stay Dedicated.
This article was written by TJ Alioto, VirTra Law Enforcement Subject Matter Expert
As a trainer, our goal should always be to equip our officers and agents with the best tools and techniques for the task at hand. We like to refer to our duty belt as our tool belt. OC, baton, taser, handcuffs, sidearm and magazines are all placed in a position where we can get to them quickly and are staged in a manner that ensures they can be deployed easily using the least amount of effort. We call this “economy of effort.” We emphasize the importance of being able to reach our gear without looking and holster our tools by feel. Through repetition and refinement, we hone our techniques to the level of unconscious competence. These are all very important aspects of training, but how are we preparing our officers and agents for situations that don’t go as planned.
“Check the box” training has become the go-to for many agencies because it’s the minimum standard. I get it, I was there too; legal updates, new equipment training (N.E.T.) and policy review are all very important, but ask yourself as a trainer: what are we doing to help develop our officers’ mindsets?
In my 32 years of combined law enforcement and military experience, I’ve seen training go through a lot of transitions. I’ve trained with a lot of great instructors and some that weren’t so great. I can remember times in training when it seemed like the instructor wasn’t really training us to be good, he was actually just showing us how good he was. I know you’ve been there, the freakin’ “gotcha” scenarios that left you thinking, how the hell did I miss that guy hiding in the dishwasher? You remember, the one who shot you six times with marking cartridges while the rest of the cadre laughed about it…Anyway, I digress.
It’s been said that our mind is our most powerful tool, but how do we train our mind to win in situations that in reality last for mere seconds and often catch us off guard? We can achieve this by developing a winning mindset. I was first exposed to the wining mindset in 2010 while attending an advanced S.W.A.T. course. Four agencies had come together to attend the training provided by a company called Fulcrum Tactical Training. The lead instructor was one of the best I’ve been exposed to. At the end of a long week, the final training exercise (FTX) was a drill they called the Mumbai drill. The FTX took place in an abandoned fire extinguisher plant that consisted of office spaces, warehouses, machine shops and loading docks. There were four teams, two of which were assigned a protectee. The goal was for the teams with the protectee to move through the compound reaching certain checkpoints while being hunted by the other teams. It was a great evolution that involved team movement, communication and weapon manipulation. We were all armed with Simunitions guns and we were all wearing full kit. It was intense.
At one point as we were moving our protectee through an office space to reach an exit that was in a corner office, we came into contact with one of the other teams following not too far behind. As our rear security called out contact, the other team was on us. My teammate took the shot from about seven yards and the other team continued to advance. My teammate yelled out “hey I shot you” but the point man for the opposing force replied “S.W.A.T doesn’t die” as he muzzle-punched him in his protective plate and pushed past him. I remember thinking during the debrief, that was kind of corny and that they weren’t fighting fair. The debrief was fairly eye opening for me. When my teammate confronted the officer about his comment the officer’s reply was amazing. He said “that wasn’t meant for you, that was for me.” The “S.W.A.T. doesn’t die” comment was the result of a well-trained mindset.
Keep in mind that the only real goal in any fight is to live. Whether its natural disaster, a use of force encounter or a health crisis, our mindset should always be to win. Working at VirTra on the training and content team has provided me the unique ability to create content that is realistic and relevant to modern law enforcement. If you are debriefing your students using the Socratic method, you enable them to recognize their mistakes on their own. Plainly put, learning has occurred. Once the student has recognized his mistake, a good repetition will help to set it in stone. Lou Holtz once said “Set a goal and ask yourself, what’s important now.” He uses and acronym that spells W.I.N. which stands for what’s important now. He said, “If you set a goal and don’t ask yourself what’s important now, you don’t have a goal, you have a wish list.”
Every day that we put on that uniform and with each encounter that we have, our goal needs to be to win. Training our mind in a realistic simulated environment helps develop that wining mindset through proper repetition. Remember, practice does NOT make perfect if you are getting bad repetitions in. Perfect practice leads to proper performance. Let your students get perfect repetitions in to sharpen their most powerful and practical tool: their mind.
This article was written by Mike Clark, VirTra Law Enforcement Subject Matter Expert