If you have been following VirTra for any amount of time, you may have noticed that we put great emphasis on our content. High-definition video and advanced hardware are not the only aspects that aid in training law enforcement. Most important is the training content that ensures effective knowledge transfer. VirTra’s efforts even go beyond intense and realistic scenarios – the VirTra content team of subject matter experts create curriculum for instructors to utilize in a fast, simple way.
This curriculum, known as V-VICTA® (VirTra – Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy) pairs VirTra’s immersive scenarios with actual NCP certified materials. VirTra customers receive lesson plans, scoring rubrics, presentations, class surveys and more. We know that it is time-consuming and difficult to create your own curriculum and have it certified, so VirTra has done all the legwork for its training partners.
V-VICTA has proven to be effective for Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC). Todd Brophy, the Firearms Range Training Coordinator, has incorporated the curriculum into his force options instruction classes. Brophy allows the CJTC students to learn in a classroom setting first, then coaches them while they practice in one of the 10 units, they use VirTra simulations for in their Firearms Program.
“The feedback we are consistently getting from the students is ‘we need more of this,’” said Brophy, who likes to allow his students to work in pairs for practice in communication skills and contact & cover concepts. “The students seem to enjoy the training and provide feedback of what they are taking away at the end of the session consistent with the learning goals and objectives we have identified for each training segment.”
Brophy’s successful method of using the curriculum combines his existing teaching modalities with V-VICTA’s. V-VICTA can be used in tandem with pre-developed ideas, or just used right out of the box. Some of the certified courses offered include:
Beyond VirTra’s in-house subject matter experts, we also partner with industry experts to ensure the quality of content. Before becoming available to customers, every course is submitted to IADLEST for NCP certification. IADLEST rigorously reviews every course to ensure it meets standards before it ever meets customer systems.
To receive V-VICTA and its updated content, you must be a current VirTra customer on an Annual Service Plan. To find out more about how to obtain V-VICTA curriculum, contact a product specialist here.
In 1998, Deputy Kyle Dinkheller was fatally shot during a traffic stop. The aftermath left his family and colleagues heartbroken, but his death was not in vain. The incident brought on a deeper look into police training, agency culture, and much more. In this way, Deputy Dinkheller has saved lives even after his passing.
One of the first officer involved critical incidents recorded on a dashcam, 22-year-old Dinkheller struggled to control Vietnam combat veteran Andrew Brannan. Eventually Brannan retrieved a gun from his vehicle and ultimately shot and killed Dinkheller. You can watch the full video here.
It is important to keep in mind that officers had different tools in 1998. Almost no officers carried ECW / CEW devices and the use of a baton (like the one Dinkheller used) was more common. Still, there were several lessons to be learned by future officers, making this event more than just an unfortunate story.
The new course “My Story: Kyle Dinkheller” gives officers a different perspective of the incident that has been in so many training videos. The coursework is accompanied by a true-to-life scenario with more than 50 branching options. The traffic stop scenario allows for the officer to use de-escalation, less lethal tools, or lethal force depending on what the situation requires.
To obtain this coursework, you must be a current VirTra customer and on an Annual Service Plan. For more information, visit this webpage.
We talk A LOT about training in law enforcement. Academy training, the field training program for new officers, annual training, specialized training…heck, even this training article you’re reading right now! But here is the brutal truth: we don’t train enough. Not even close to what we should be doing.
Want a recent example? In 2022 there was an active shooter incident in Uvalde, Texas. After the incident, there was a lot of talk about how officers responded at the scene. An investigation into the responding officers training found that half of them have never been through active shooter training.
If we all agree that training is so important, then why don’t we do more? Why do officers in the United States fall so far behind their counterparts around the world when it comes to training hours? Money.
A recent study found that 97% of police agencies budgets went toward salary and benefits, leaving 3% for all other expenditures, including training. (Urban Institute, n.d.) In recent years there has been a call for agencies to spend more money on training their officers, but we are still not where we should be.
Now, let’s look at how much time a recruit may spend in an academy for their training. In the U.S., the average length of basic police training is around 800 hours, or 20-22 weeks. (Emily D. Buehler, 2021) I wanted to know how this compared to other jobs that had required training, so I looked a few of them up. To get your barber license: 1500 hours. To be a licensed plumber: 4 years of experience.
Ok, ok, so maybe a barber needs more hours than an officer. Surely, we’re in line with the rest of the world when it comes to officer training. Right? Not. Even. Close.
Canada requires around 1,000 hours. England is between 2,000 and 2,500 hours. 3,500 hours in Australia. And in India, Finland, and Dubai, you’re looking at around 5,000 hours of training to become an officer.
Something doesn’t seem to add up. Why would we want police officers out there without a significant amount of training? Ok, yes, officers need 2 years of secondary schooling as well, but think about how much of those two years really falls into “training” and is useful on the job.
As trainers, we need to speak up and demand that more time and resources are available to properly train officers. Multiple studies show that more training makes it safer for officers and the people they interact with. It also reduces liability on the city, county, or state that the officers work for, since well-trained officers are less likely to be sued.
If you can’t get more money, you can still get more training in. Roll-call training, mid-shift training, and online classes all can be done for little to no cost. Training doesn’t have to come in 4-hour blocks. 15 minutes here and there can really add up. If you want to send officers to training that may have a financial impact, check with your neighboring departments to see if there may be a discount for larger groups.
If you’re interested in simulation training, which can be very cost effective, look for grants that can help fund the purchase of a VirTra simulator. With the IADLEST certified V-VICTA® training curriculum included, your officers can spend less time planning and preparing for classes, and more time doing the training.
Stay safe. Stay dedicated.
Emily D. Buehler, P. D. (2021). State and Local Law Enforcement Training Academies, 2018. U.S. Department of Justice.
Urban Institute. (n.d.). Criminal Justice Expenditures: Police, Corrections, and Courts. Retrieved from Urban.org: https://www.urban.org/policy-centers/cross-center-initiatives/state-and-local- finance-initiative/state-and-local-backgrounders/criminal-justice-police-corrections-courts- expenditures
Courts have been hearing cases about failure to intervene for years – as far back as 1972. All courts have ruled that officers have a duty to intervene when there is a violation of a person’s constitutional rights. This includes during excessive or unnecessary application of force.
There are various reasons people may not intervene when a fellow officer is acting out of conduct. Maybe they don’t know they should, or they freeze up. Sometimes there is a negative culture in the agency that prevents them – consciously or unconsciously – from reporting an incident or stopping the offense.
The why, when, what, and how are all important to know when discussing an officer’s duty to intervene. When training, we look at past examples of what went wrong, then adjust accordingly in order to avoid making the same mistakes. Instructors must also show examples where proper intervention took place in order to see how these applications can work in the real world.
When you fail to intervene, it does not only affect the victim, it affects both legally and morally, plus the entire agency may be subject to distrust from the community. It goes against what is an officer’s code of conduct, as they joined the force to protect the community they serve.
As we have seen over the years with various failure to intervene cases, there is a national (and sometimes international) spotlight when things go wrong. These include notable incidents such as the Rodney King and George Floyd cases. In both, one or more officers allowed an instance of unnecessary or unreasonable amount of force to occur and continue.
The most important reasons why duty to intervene matters:
Despite rules being in place, issues can still happen and it is important to understand why. Your department should place value in those who come forward when something is wrong, but occasionally, there is a “code of silence” or people become worried of repercussions for reporting someone.
Nobody should have to fear retaliation for doing the right thing. Some agency cultures can make officers feel that they cannot report someone who is higher in seniority, or that they will be treated like a “snitch.” These are things that can be discussed with officers of all ranks, ensuring everyone knows that duty to intervene applies to everyone regardless of rank or status.
Lastly, leadership influences the success of policies. If it’s all lip service and things don’t actually change, nothing is accomplished. In fact, not sticking to the policies you create and discuss can lower officers’ trust in their leadership. Supervisors should enforce the policies and create a culture of feeling empowered to step up when seeing something wrong.
Officers should detect the need to intervene early in the event before trouble starts. Signs of anger and use of profanity could indicate that the officer is starting to let their emotions get the best of them. The EPIC model (ethical policing is courageous) suggests using a 10-code that can signal to the other officer that they need to calm down. “Sgt. Smith, 10-12!” or similar can get their attention without alerting others or causing embarrassment.
VirTra has given its law enforcement clients an opportunity to practice their understanding of when to intervene. Certified in early 2023, “Duty to Intervene: No Such Thing as a Professional Bystander” gives users an interactive and engaging way to learn. It combines training videos and multiple immersive scenarios to give officers the experience in a safe learning environment.
Professional intervention is important and is used in other fields besides policing, even in medical and aviation settings. It can save your job, your partner’s job, and the wellbeing of the community you serve. If you would like to get started with VirTra and begin training Duty to Intervene and other important topics, contact a specialist.
EPIC – Ethical Policing Is Courageous. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://epic.nola.gov
Galindez v. City of Hartford (U.S. Dist LEXIS 17592 2003).
Law enforcement comes into contact with a plethora of different types of people daily. Because of this, it is necessary for them to receive as much training as possible on how to respectively interact with each unique individual they might encounter.
Those on the autism spectrum may be mistaken with a different type of case when they come in contact with law enforcement – such as drug use. According to a study done from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, by age 21, one in five young adults with autism had been stopped and questioned by police¹. This a why officers must be trained on how to identify and interact with individuals on the spectrum.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can make communication and social situations difficult for those diagnosed. Individuals may also display behaviors such as hand flapping, rocking back and forth, avoiding eye contact, resistance to direction, and more. But because no two cases are alike, there is no “stereotype” to autistic behavior. This makes it that much more important for officers to be educated on what autistic behavior might look like and how to respond accordingly.
VirTra understands the importance of law enforcement receiving this kind of training. VirTra partnered with the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) to create a curriculum for officers to learn the signs and learn the various ways to respond to a call with someone on the spectrum.
This partnership was our way of ensuring that our curriculum contained accurate information regarding ASD and would effectively support both officers and those diagnosed with ASD.
Officers can receive 2 hours of certified curriculum through the VirTra simulators. There is walkthrough training with SARRC CEO Daniel Openden and additional scenarios for officers to put their new skills to the test. All of the actors in the scenarios actually have autism, giving officers real life examples of autistic behavior on a scene.
VirTra now has two ways for you to access this training! If your agency is looking to purchase a simulator, this curriculum comes along with it (and so many more)!
Not ready to purchase a system quite yet? You can access the course by signing up for Certified Training Alliance , an online learning platform for First Responders!
If you would like to learn more about VirTra’s curriculum and simulators, contact a VirTra specialist.
During and after the pandemic, people became much more aware of how many disease can spread. Mitigating the spread of disease as a first responder goes beyond just COVID-19. Officers are in close contact with many people, and any of them could – knowingly or unknowingly – have an infectious disease.
Understanding the diseases and sicknesses that are at the highest risk for law enforcement officers to obtain is the start. Officers also benefit from understanding how diseases can spread and what the signs and symptoms are.
VirTra’s “Infectious Diseases” course provides 4 hours of material for officers to learn from. There are also 3 associated scenarios to help officers practice interactions.
Disease can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi. Viral infections are a common way for first responders to become sick due to contact with the public. HIV, tuberculosis, COVID-19, hepatitis, and the common cold are some examples of viruses obtained through direct or indirect contact.
To become infected with a virus/bacteria, typically one of the following contacts have occurred:
The list above is certainly not exhaustive. Some organisms may even linger on objects that were handled by someone with a virus. This is why it is important to take reasonable precautions if there is a risk of becoming ill.
While it is not always foolproof, there are several ways to greatly mitigate the spread of disease. Decreasing the risk of infection can be as simple as washing your hands or avoiding touching your nose and mouth.
Washing your hands frequently – not just when you believe you have touched a sick person – is important. If you unconsciously touch your face with unclean hands or eat without washing them, you could pick up an organism. Make sure your hands are either thoroughly washed with soap, or that you use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Using personal protective equipment (PPE) may be necessary to avoid contact with contaminated surfaces or airborne particles. Gloves, face masks, and eye protection are some examples of PPE that can be used on the field if needed. N-95-rated masks may be required for specific organisms to be effective.
It is also recommended that you stay home if you feel ill. You may have a weak immune system and expose yourself to other viruses, plus you may spread a virus to other colleagues. If you are predisposed to infection or have a weakened immune system, taking more precautions helps you better prepare for possible exposure to germs.
Our V-VICTA® course, Infectious Diseases, allows not only for classroom learning, but for real world practice. Some scenarios deal with an individual coughing, letting the officer decide how to handle the situation while protecting themselves. Another deals with irate people who do not wish to comply with a business’ PPE rules.
The scenarios help supplement the learning of this important topic. The course comes with an entire manual containing instructor guides, note taking materials, tests, scoring rubrics, and more. Even better? When the course is completed, students receive a certificate of completion and earn NCP credit.
If you are interested in VirTra’s coursework and want to learn how to incorporate it into your agency’s training regime, contact a specialist.
When training your officers, it is a priority to ensure that they receive quality de-escalation training with a curriculum that contains applicable and reliable knowledge. Creating your own curriculum is a process – it takes time, it takes money and both of those are valuable things that you would like to save! On the other hand, when looking at purchasing a curriculum, there is a chance that some courses may have not gone through a certification de-escalation training for police process that meets State and POST requirements for de-escalation training.
With all these factors to consider, you may be wondering what the right answer is. That is where VirTra’s V-VICTA® curriculum comes in. Our curriculum mitigates 60+ hours of research, prep and approvals of instructor man hours per one hour of finished curriculum. It also optimizes training session time for maximum learning.
On top of those benefits, VirTra puts our V-VICTA courses through a rigorous approval process with IADLEST. IADLEST offers the National Certification Program (NCP) of which sets a high standard in providing quality education for law enforcement nationwide. This means that all of our courses are equipped with extensive training materials for your team to work through.
NCP certified courses are also accepted by all participating POST organizations providing a trustworthy, time and cost-effective way for your officers to earn their certification de-escalation training for police.
VirTra is also the only simulator company that provides a certified curriculum for law enforcement, which is free when included with our training simulators.
In our training simulators, officers can put their certification de-escalation training for police to practice with intensive training scenarios. Our professionally-produced scenarios include real actors simulating real-world situations. Most of the scenarios contain on average over 85 different branching options based on the officer’s actions. In the scenarios, trainees must use quick decision-making skills to de-escalate the situation to the best of their ability.
The additional scenario training adds immense value to the curriculum by allowing officers to test their classroom knowledge in a stress-inducing environment, preparing them for the real-world.
If your department does not have the current means for a VirTra simulator but still wants to experience our V-VICTA curriculum, you have another option!
VirTra partnered with other industry-leading partners to develop Certified Training Alliance (CTA). CTA is an online training program for law enforcement that officers can train through at their own pace, wherever they want! Including certified courses generated from our V-VICTA curricula such as Autism Awareness, Crisis De-escalation, 10 different Mental Illness courses, and more.
You may also find courses from Force Science and Tony Blauer. It’s FREE to sign up and browse the courses online.
Click here to sign up for Certified Training Alliance!
…and if you want to learn more about online training program for law enforcement and VirTra’s V-VICTA curriculum, contact a VirTra specialist today!
One thing can always be counted on: there is nothing constant but change. One change that has come to many law enforcement agencies is the switch between iron sights and red dot sight (RDS) optics for pistols. There can be a learning curve like there is with acquiring any new skill – but VirTra provides solutions to help overcome the nuances.
If you have a VirTra simulator, you can access the “Red Dot Optics Training and Sustainment” course. This NCP-certified curriculum has 21 accompanying training drills. It was created in conjunction with Victory First® utilizing Aimpoint® red dot optics. The goal is to allow officers to learn skills in the simulator, then practice on the range with minimal transfer time.
One of the ways officers have gotten to practice both in a VirTra simulator and on the range is through the recent Action Target Law Enforcement Training Camp (LETC). VirTra’s Subject Matter Expert Mike Clark taught the Red Dot course to several members of law enforcement. Those who completed the course received a certificate as well as new knowledge to bring back to their agencies.
An agency that is about to switch out their iron sights for RDS is Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Sgt. Micah Evans took Mike Clark’s Red Dot course in preparation for the change. Sgt. Evans and his colleagues currently utilize the simulator at Utah Attorney General’s Office.
“The simulator drills help get the officers dialed into using the optic,” said Sgt. Evans, referring to how training in the simulator helped his performance on the range. “The transition to live fire using the same drills really helped get the officers familiar with the optic.” While no training can imitate real-life ballistics with 100% accuracy, VirTra gets close with accuracy up to 2,500 meters within .02 milliradians.
It is common to hear people say they are visual learners. Many say that they learn better by doing rather than listening to a lecture. Practicing the motor skills is far more engaging than reading about it in a textbook or listening to a presentation. It also helps acquire the skills as well as learning the difference between RDS and iron sights.
The Red Dot Optics course at LETC allowed attendees the experience of having an indoor classroom with pre-tests, indoor simulator sessions, then going to the live fire range to apply the knowledge learned.
When asked if the style of training completed in the LETC Red Dot Optics course was something he would continue to practice, Sgt. Evans stated that it is a style he attempts to do with officers whenever they train. “I am a strong believer in situational based training over flat range and class room,” said Sgt. Evans. “Using the combination that this program offers is exactly the type combined training I strive to provide to my officers.”
As mentioned above, the course is NCP-certified – but what does that mean for you? VirTra ensures its V-VICTA® courses (such as Red Dot Optics Training and Sustainment) are certified by IADLEST to ensure quality of content. NCP certification is recognized by POST in 36 states, allowing officers who complete the courses to receive continuing education credit.
This type of coursework allows learning to be done beyond just listening to an instructor verbally explain a topic. Students practice and are tested using the VirTra simulator while learning topics based on case law and real after-action reports. Courses being pre-certified saves time for instructors. Normally approvals would be needed, coursework would need reviewing…and it would have to be written! Just one hour of curriculum saves an instructor 65 hours of research, preparation, writing, reviewing, and approving.
Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment is much more than just a lecture or repetitive range drill. It contains 21 drills to test the student on what they have learned – plus accurate debrief sessions that follow. It only takes a second to pull in the target so you can see the point of aim over point of impact and repeat!
VirTra highly recommends situational-based training as it prepares trainees and officers for the real world better than any lecture could. If your agency is switching to red dot optics and interested in practicing the skills in a simulator, contact a product specialist.
Imagine yourself in a rapidly evolving situation with an irate subject. You only have a limited time to properly take control of the situation by de-escalating or using the appropriate level of force. One mistake can cost lives – your own and others. Experienced officers have learned to navigate difficult situations under stress, but can always benefit from refresh courses. Trainees and new recruits need hundreds of learning opportunities to develop these crucial skills.
In order to learn and practice the skills needed, law enforcement officers must practice in a similar circumstance. In our case, a realistic, stress-inducing environment. Trainees also benefit from learning in classroom settings in order to learn the foundation and the basics of actions. VirTra combines both the realistic environment with nationally-certified classroom training in a revolutionary program called V-VICTA®—Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy.
V-VICTA is designed to teach, train, test and sustain both trainees and officers in a variety of critical, life-saving skills. Instructors receive an entire training package for each course—slide presentations, lesson plans, tests, corresponding simulated scenarios and more. This allows instructors to teach the concept in the classroom, then immediately train the skill in the simulator. Best of all, V-VICTA curricula comes free with all law enforcement simulators, simultaneously easing the financial burden on departments while providing high-quality modern training.
From Autism Awareness to Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment, VirTra ensures every course has ample information provided by in-house subject matter experts, partners and other industry experts. In addition to simulation science, our partners also provide us with new information, studies and insights—such as our partnership with SARRC for our Autism curriculum—which in turn is passed on to our clients and their officers.
Think of all the steps you have to take to create curriculum, let alone have it certified. You have to write lesson plans, research topics and have the course reviewed to ensure clarity. If you want to nationally certify it, you have to submit it for review and make necessary corrections in order for it to meet training standards. All of this takes time and requires spending.
Many training simulation companies would stop at simply creating it, but VirTra does the work of certifying the coursework for agencies, alleviating some pressure. All V-VICTA courses are nationally-certified through the IADLEST National Certification Program™ for POST Certification, which sets the national training standards for curriculum certification across 36 states. To ensure only the highest quality training receives this certification, each course is critically reviewed by IADLEST members and must then pass the rigors of their independent review process.
With all V-VICTA materials bearing the NCP seal, instructors know they are receiving quality training materials, thus saving time and money from creating their own coursework. In fact, as of May 2022, VirTra offers 82.75 hours of V-VICTA training. Because 1 hour of curriculum takes an average of 50 hours of research, preparation and approvals, VirTra’s offering of 82.75 hours of training saves departments roughly 5,378.75 man-hours. Imagine how much more can be accomplished as an instructor when you save more than 5,000 hours! Because these curricula are both POST approved and nationally-certified, departments automatically receive training hours whenever the curriculum is taught. Officers who complete the training are awarded with an official certificate.
In addition to saving departments time from creating the training materials, V-VICTA further saves time through the curriculum’s structure. All modules can be broken into 15–30-minute intervals for optimal roll call learning, or if one’s schedule allows for quick periods of training. This method known as “interleaved/interwoven training” ensures officers receive quality training without sacrificing extensive periods of time.
One of our recent curricula is our Special Populations: Autism Awareness training. In 2021, the CDC has discovered that 1 in 44 children has been diagnosed with autism, making this training critical for all officers, as they are likely to eventually encounter someone on the spectrum. Those with autism may have difficulty communicating and exhibit repetitive behavior and/or speech patterns, so officers must know how to properly recognize the signs and interact.
To first educate officers, the Autism Awareness curriculum provides instructors with a lesson plan and presentation that teaches some of the more common signs of autism, including: avoiding eye contact, hand flapping, rocking back and forth, resistance to control, etc. This is paired with a training scenario featuring SARRC CEO Daniel Openden, who goes into further detail. After gaining this understanding, officers are able to practice their skills with the corresponding scenarios. Actual adults with autism are featured in the scenarios to provide police the chance to see real-life examples of autistic behaviors.
In creating these materials, several VirTra clients participated in review and early beta testing of both the curriculum materials and scenarios. After months of research, hard work, testing, filming and certification, Autism Awareness was ready to be used on VirTra’s simulators. Now, dozens of agencies around the United States are using scenarios that can assist them in recognizing the signs of autism.
Besides Autism Awareness, other available courses include the following (with more to come):
Future courses that are in development and set to be released to VirTra’s law enforcement clients include duty to intervene, infectious diseases and deaf/hard of hearing.
Getting started with using V-VICTA is easy. All current VirTra clients have access to the materials. New courses that come out are installed on annual service trips, ensuring that agencies don’t miss out on any coursework as it launches. VirTra has simplified the process so that all you need to do is access the files, review the materials and then teach your class.
Training is a critical component for law enforcement, but the quality of the training is just as important. With lives on the line, and the dangerous atmosphere that comes with the job, instructors must train their officers to the highest level of preparedness. V-VICTA serves as one of the best and easiest resources, with no hassle, as it comes free with all law enforcement simulators. Start training your officers in the most modern, powerful, stress-inoculating simulators on the market. Talk to a VirTra representative to get started.
As a member of law enforcement, think for a moment about how many people you interact with daily and how many people you talk with in one shift. Effective communication is a critical piece of the job. We interact with individuals from all walks of life. That includes individuals who have mental illness. The key to effective communication is behavior recognition to choose the best communication style for the individual and the situation.
When it comes to interacting with individuals who have mental illness, choosing the communication style that best fits the situation is the best course of action. We do not communicate with a diagnosis, but with a human being.
The question we should ask ourselves: does the diagnosis itself matter? In most cases, it does not.
A diagnosis is informative at best. What is more important from a law enforcement perspective is we choose the right type of communication for an individual and the behavior exhibited at the time of interaction. The risk comes from misreading behaviors from individuals and not from whether a person has a diagnosis or not.
However, there is a large part of the population that has a diagnosis for a mental illness at any given time. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five adults in the U.S. have some type of mental illness. Mental illness is a broad term – there are many symptoms that accompany different diagnoses. Awareness of behavior is a key factor in how an officer interacts with any person, mental illness or not.
Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Some disorders are genetic and others are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. They can be influenced by many factors, environment included.
Law enforcement officers interact with individuals who may have one or more of the following diagnoses:
It is important to emphasize that members of law enforcement should not attempt to diagnose; the goal is familiarization of behaviors. Individuals who have a serious mental illness may find themselves more likely to have an encounter with police. In fact, persons who have a mental illness are more likely to be victims of a crime. That doesn’t mean there are not interactions that have violence, volatility, and instability. But that comes from anyone we deal with and is not relative to mental illness alone.
Some strategies for dealing with crisis or crisis-like behavior may include:
Another critical component of understanding mental illness is intervention. When possible, encourage individuals to seek help. Knowing what is available and providing information lays a foundation for showing you care and that there is hope.
Never sacrifice safety for a behavioral health intervention. We have a responsibility to the individual, the public, and to ourselves. Abandoning sound tactics is never the answer.
Dual diagnosis is a known problem – one where a person experiences both a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. People use substances for various reasons. There is an correlation of trauma and substance use.
Some diagnoses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may have behaviors that mimic substance use. Recognizing the differences is not necessarily possible. That is why addressing behavior is the key.
Autism spectrum disorder affects the way a person socializes, speaks and acts. It is called a spectrum for a reason – there are some people with autism that have barely noticeable traits, while others are entirely nonverbal and rely on a caregiver to help them communicate.
There have been instances where a person on the autism spectrum have experienced difficulties and trauma as officers thought that drugs played a part in the behavior rather than there was a foundation of miscommunication. The number of similar incidents involving members on the spectrum creates the notion that there is a lack of training in this field.
When designed and tested correctly, simulation training provides a realistic environment for law enforcement members to practice in. Video-based simulation is even better, as it features real people and allows officers to pick up on subtle visual cues (such as facial expressions and small movements) that cannot be replicated with CGI.
The right kind of simulator has high-definition video, numerous scenario branching options and thorough debrief capabilities. When interacting with an on-screen subject, officers should practice to recognize various behaviors and choose the appropriate verbal techniques for that situation.
Much more than hardware, the vital part of simulation training is the quality of the content. Do officers truly learn something from what they are experiencing in the simulator? VirTra ensures content quality and skill transfer by submitting all curriculum – including our Mental Illness and Autism Awareness courses – to IADLEST for NCP certification.
Working and creating partnerships with industry experts has assisted VirTra in creating coursework that benefits law enforcement. With 15 hours of mental illness curriculum and 2 hours of autism curriculum, police trainers can have effective training at their fingertips. The pre-made curriculum doesn’t just include the scenarios, but also student handouts, instructor manuals, testing materials and more. It is intended to make the instructor’s job easier with coursework that can be used right out of the box.
In 2021, the state of Utah began requiring that law enforcement members obtain training hours solely dedicated to autism awareness, thanks to the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Some of the hours involve the use of a VirTra training simulator due to its immersive qualities and the detailed course structure.
“The beautiful thing about the system is that we can change the dialogue, we can change the reaction, the response and we can make it harder [or] better depending on how the officer is navigating this situation. We worked with families with children with autism spectrum disorder; we worked with experts in the education field, in the medical community, to behavioral scientists, to actually try to create and develop these modules.” – Sean Reyes, Utah Attorney General (Quote: ABC News)
By having the officers at your agency become familiar with the concepts of mental illness and autism spectrum disorder, they are keeping both themselves and their communities safe. It allows agencies to build trust and confidence from the community by making an effort to understand all members within it.
If you wish to learn more about VirTra’s coursework and how we combine simulation technology and adult learning, contact us.
Article originally published by Officer.com