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

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


The Importance of Scenario Branching

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

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


Why De-Escalation?

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

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


De-Escalation in Virtual Reality Training Scenarios

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

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


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



VirTra’s use-of-force simulators have a vast number of scenarios covering everything from de-escalation to active threats. The scope broadens even more when the number of branching options is considered, allowing multiple ways to reach a resolution. With an average of 85 branching options per scenario, no single event is guaranteed to go a certain way – just like in the field, where  unpredictability is part of the job.

The Instructor Takes the Lead on Scenarios

Instructors can drive a scenario in any direction based on the student’s interaction with the on-screen character. VirTra’s branching features allow for instructors to manipulate the evolution to achieve any manner of training objective. The objective could be based upon policy, best practices, or vital training like de-escalation. Trainers can reward good behavior by having an aggressive character become compliant because proper de-escalation techniques were used. On the other hand, students who are not performing well can be encouraged to step up their game.

Usually, departmental policy dictates what skillset trainees will be developing during recurrent training. With our branching options, instructors can accomplish departmental training objectives by running each trainee through the same scenario, however using our branching function the scenario can play out differently based on individual performance. If the same scenario with the same pathway to resolution is run multiple times, students learn to “game” the system and recall what happens next. Giving an instructor to change things up prevents trainees from becoming complacent.

Branching Scenarios

An example of a VirTra scenario is “Midnight Madness,” where the officer is responding to an active threat in a theater. They chase an armed male suspect after navigating the theater and seeing injured victims. In the end, what will the suspect do? Will he give up or will he begin to fire his weapon? Will the trainee fire back in time or be hit by gunfire? What if an innocent person pops out and startles the trainee, causing them to fire their weapon? Each action has different consequences – just like in reality.

Another scenario called “Teacher’s Pet” features a broad array of branching options. The image below shows only a portion of the available options.

As VirTra aims to create a realistic experience during training, the content must not be brushed over. Screens and hardware may be impressive, but what the trainee gets out of the experience could save lives.

For more information about VirTra’s intense and effective simulator training options, contact a product specialist.

As new situations arise in society and crime evolves, law enforcement officers need the most powerful, immersive, skill-transferring training possible. To prepare officers for the field, VirTra created simulators that allow them to practice and improve skills ranging from de-escalation to judgmental use of force.

Officers can go through real-life de-escalation scenario training with their entire toolbelt for the most realistic training possible, through the addition of VirTra’s drop-in recoil kits and Axon® TASER® cartridges. But realistic training is more than only realistic accessories; it is the training scenarios themselves.

Training Simulator Branching Options

Each de-escalation training simulator is programmed with a variety of scenarios, each with an average of 85 branching options. By integrating extensive branching options, the event unfolds based on the training objectives and decisions made by the trainee. This ability allows an officer to use communication skills and use of force tactics together.

In addition, by training in a simulator, the skills can be trained and tested repeatedly and consistently year over year.

Training in this manner improves an officer’s cognitive ability. As the officer navigates through the situation, they can practice various de-escalation tactics or learn to look for certain behavioral cues. After, they can take that knowledge and expound on it by practicing the same scenario and trying new strategies in an effort to achieve a better ending.

Learn from Mistakes in a Safe Simulator Environment

Training in a de-escalation simulator allows officer to make mistakes in a safe, controlled environment. Should an officer attempt to de-escalate a situation, but make a mistake or cause it to escalate, the officer can see the situation pan out and learn the consequences of their actions. After the debrief, the officer can attempt the scenario again with the situation set up exactly as before; no need to prep actors or role-players.

“[Simulators] allow for those mistakes to happen and get corrected before they are a problem for the agencies that we train for, and really that’s a huge piece of why we implemented this. We want to improve the training in a way that’s going to allow for those better choices down the road.”


Todd Brophy — Training Specialist and Use of Force Expert

VirTra can improve your department’s de-escalation and judgmental use of force skills. Instructors can take advantage of an average of 85 branching options per scenario to immerse their officers in new situations that unfold based on their actions. Contact a VirTra specialist to learn more.

Upping the Realism in Use of Force Scenarios Training

As crime evolves and new problems appear in society, law enforcement need the most powerful, state-of-the-art training possible. The best training tools cover the most prevalent situations today, allowing officers to enter the field knowing they are prepared for any situation that may occur.

VirTra’s law enforcement training simulators are one such tool. These immersive training simulators are programmed with an extensive variety of scenarios that prepare officers in de-escalation, active threats, dog encounters and more. Each scenario is created by in-house subject matter experts who base the scenarios off experience, industry knowledge and case law. To make our scenarios more realistic, VirTra’s SMEs build each scenario with an average of 85 branching options.

Branching options allow for a more realistic type of training. Now, depending on the trainee’s actions, instructors can select which path the scenario takes. For example, a scenario can be successfully de-escalated by the officer or escalated if the officer makes a wrong decision. With numerous branching points in each scenario, trainees can explore different tactics and learn from the extensive number of decision-making paths.

Learning from Branching Scenarios

The benefit to having an average of 85 branching options is how the number allows for the perfect blend of quality and quantity. In regards to quantity, instructors have access to dozens of real-life endings and can program it so officers have a completely different learning experience each time they step into the simulator.

As for quality, VirTra’s scenarios are equipped with the ideal number of branching options. If there were too few options, officers would not receive adequate judgmental use of force training or skill transfer. But if there were too many branching options, the quality of the scenario would be reduced, as content developers would be rushing to create a higher number of branches instead of spending time carefully crafting realistic, fleshed-out options with training value. By having the right number of branching options, VirTra can dedicate time to ensuring each scenario is true-to-life and each scenario branch provides skill-building officers can take into the field.

Maximize Law Enforcement Simulation Training with VirTra

VirTra can provide your department with the most high-fidelity, skill-building training possible. Instructors can take advantage of a variety of real-life scenarios and extensive branching options that unfold based on their trainee or officer’s decisions. With an average of 85 different decision-making paths to resolution, there is plenty to learn from each scenario. Contact a VirTra specialist to learn more or schedule a demonstration.