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.
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
Warfighters and soldiers in the field face numerous dangerous and life-threatening situations every day. Not only are the enemies they face unpredictable, but they must also make decisions based on their unique environments, which are difficult to mimic or simulate using common learning methods. A simulator that utilizes real video is a highly effective way to train soldiers, and with time, this style of training can lead to better reactions and decision-making skills.
In many cases, recruits learn how to handle situations they may encounter in the field by listening to a lecture, watching a video, or going out into the field and practicing a variety of maneuvers. Though these things can and often do help members of the military learn what to do in certain situations, these methods lack realism and do little to properly train soldiers. When faced with a life-threatening situation, soldiers who have experienced that situation before are far more likely to react appropriately.
VirTra’s simulators are designed to provide a completely immersive experience and help soldiers feel as if they are truly out in the field. They utilize high-quality video and sound, and they come with dozens of pre-programmed scenarios that can be customized for unique situations. This makes a simulator one of the best tools available for training.
Another of the biggest benefits associated with utilizing VirTra to train warfighters is the simulators’ ability to recreate almost any scenario in any possible environment. For example, a vehicle may react differently in dry conditions than in the rain, and by simulating both experiences, soldiers can learn the differences and make appropriate decisions. Types of military scenarios include green-on-blue, active threat, key leader engagement and more. Essentially, with the ability to control the scenario, the weather and the visibility, it is possible to help soldiers and warfighters learn what it is like to work in a wide range of conditions that they may not experience otherwise.
The same goes for virtual range training, where VirTra’s marksmanship programs are both customizable and ballistically accurate. This makes it a perfect supplement for live fire range training. Instructors can change the setting of the range from the time of day, weather, wind and more so military members can experience the effects different conditions have when firing. Instructors may also change the types of targets and how they appear, turn or pop up.
VirTra gives military service members (and their instructors) an opportunity to review the actions that were taken during the simulation and improve their behaviors based upon the result. In other words, it is possible to measure soldiers’ progress objectively and completely. Simulators track everything a soldier says and does, and they can even record reaction time. Following a simulation, it is possible to review footage for debrief of any given individual’s performance. The more a servicemember experiences these scenarios, the better he or she will become at making quick decisions.
Service members out in the field experience a wide range of unpredictable situations. Because of this, it may seem impossible to train based on real-life experience, but this is not the case. Simulators can provide an incredibly realistic simulation of any imaginable situation in any environment, and when soldiers can learn by doing, they are far more likely to make the best decisions when faced with those scenarios in the field.
To learn more about how VirTra can help train your military squad, speak to a specialist.
Instructors need as much freedom as possible when it comes to training. After all, they know their department’s needs better than anyone. So when it comes to training, shouldn’t instructors have the ability to craft scenarios and drills to best address these needs?
This philosophy is why VirTra designed the V-Author® program. Simply put, V-Author is an easy scenario creation program that can create virtually unlimited custom image-based scenarios, skill drills, target exercises, firearms training and more.
As with all training, instructors begin by setting the stage. In this case, instructors create the scenario’s background, either by selecting an image from the provided library or uploading a picture of their own. The ability to upload pictures is critical, as instructors can have officers train in local environments, such as where situations normally arise.
After the background is selected, the next step is to drag-and-drop pre-filmed characters into the environment. VirTra’s character library is filled with dozens of single characters, crowds, props, weapons and more—any combination of which can be used. Best of all, VirTra’s training technology takes this to the next level: characters are programmed with different behaviors and reactions, which instructors can select from or have be triggered by events initiated by the trainee.
The combined abilities of uploading new environments and using unique character combinations allows instructors to have the most customized training. The powerful training doesn’t stop here, though.
Just like all other VirTra programs, V-Author is run through VOS, allowing for extensive debrief. After the training is complete, instructors can play back the situation, scrub the timeline towards specific events and show the placement of shots fired. Should a training event be particularly insightful, instructors have the ability to save a session and playback at a different time.
V-Author is an incredibly beneficial tool to departments worldwide. This article only goes into the beginning of V-Author’s abilities—for the full breadth, contact a VirTra representative!
By: Lon Bartel, VirTra SME
This article was originally published on Envisage’s website. Read below for the article’s summary, then access the entire article in the link provided below.
When you turn on the news, chances are, there is a high-profile use-of-force case being discussed. At this rate, it feels as if there is a new case each week.
Since these events are oftentimes highly emotional, they cause visceral reactions from the public, and consequently overshadow the good work and sacrifices officers perform every day.
This leads into a discussion about reasonable use of force.
“The use of reasonable force must take into account that officers are human and must make decisions in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situations. The officer may not make the right—or some would call ‘necessary’—action.”
However, the action must be reasonable. And what makes an officer’s use-of-force action reasonable?
Read the full article, which is found on Envisage’s website. Click here to be redirected.
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 dealing with unpredictability is part of the job.
Instructors can drive a scenario in any direction based on the student’s interaction with the on-screen character. Our branching features allow for instructors to manipulate the evolution to achieve any manner of training objective based upon policy, best practices or hot topic training materials like de-escalation, EDP and threat recognition. Trainers can reward good behavior by having a seemingly aggressive character simply become compliant because proper techniques were used by the trainee. On the other hand, students who are not performing well can be encouraged to step up their game and take control of a situation if a trainer sees that he/she is losing control of the situation.
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” and recall what happens next. Giving an instructor to change things up prevents trainees from becoming complacent.
An example of a VirTra scenario is Midnight Madness, where the officer in the simulator is responding to an active threat in a movie theater. They chase an armed male suspect after navigating the theater and seeing injured victims, but 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 during the student’s run through the theater, an innocent person pops out and startles the trainee, causing him/her to fire their weapon? Each action has different consequences – just like in reality.
As VirTra aims to create a realistic, immersive 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 his or her life, as well as the lives of community members.
For more information about VirTra’s intense and effective simulator training options, contact a product specialist.
As an instructor, have you seen local environments of high crime that would make for a beneficial training scene? With VirTra’s V-Author® program, this can be easily accomplished.
In a nutshell, V-Author is an easy-to-use scenario creation tool that is capable of creating virtually unlimited custom image-based scenarios, skill drills, targeting exercises and firearms training.
To begin, users can pull an image from the provided background library of specific, real-world environments or upload their own. Instructors can take panoramic photographs of local high-risk locations, scenes of previous judgmental use of force incidents or other locations around town and convert these images into a simulation-ready background through V-Author.
After selecting the background, instructors can drag-and-drop pre-filmed characters onto the environment. This is where VirTra’s technology takes police training to the next level: character assets come programmed with a variety of behaviors and reactions that instructors can program to be triggered by events initiated by the trainee. Characters can also react to each other, scene events or even instructor-driven commands in arbitrarily complex ways. This allows for a virtually unlimited set of potential scenarios, all crafted around the trainer’s need and preference.
However, the training does not stop there. In V-Author, every character is independent and instructors can reuse them in new scenarios or modify their current behavior for a new outcome within the current, existing training scenario. As such, law enforcement trainees can learn from, communicate with and participate in scenarios that are ever-shifting. Training after this manner gives instructors the freedom to create the exact training situations needed by their department, rather than being confined to a limited list of scenarios that other training simulator companies offer.
Remember how we mentioned each character is independent? In addition to having a variety of behaviors, characters are programmed to provide separate reactions based on the hit zone location and weapon type fired by the trainee. For example, characters will respond appropriately for Axon® TASER®, OC and gas reactions, then have an entirely different reaction for a shot to the limb. To further the realism, projectiles can be defined with animation effects such as TASER probe wires unfurling when fired, or gas clouds on impact of a gas grenade.
Just like with all VirTra scenarios, in V-Author, debrief is completed through VOS. This allows the instructor to play the situation back at different speeds, scrub the timeline forward or backward, show the placement of shots fired and more. As a training bonus, instructors can save sessions to playback as a training tool at a later time.
This article only covers the beginnings of V-Author. This powerful training tool allows the instructor to design a training regime around local environments and department-specific training needs. For more information, watch our in-depth YouTube video or contact a VirTra Specialist.
As every officer knows and understands, de-escalation is always the most preferred solution to a tense interaction. However, verbal de-escalation is not always possible.
Many law enforcement officers may begin a difficult situation implementing de-escalation tactics, only to be forced to use less lethal options. In some cases, officers are forced to resort to defensive tactics or other forms of physical interactions to mitigate harm or bring a subject into custody.
While de-escalation, less lethal and judgmental use of force are often discussed and training on these topics have increased, instructors need to remember the importance of teaching Defensive Tactics (DT) and other potentially life-saving skills. After all, officers need to be prepared for any situation and equipped with a full duty belt and extensive knowledge.
The best way to prepare officers in DT and similar skills is in an immersive, judgmental use of force simulator.
Since each VirTra simulator is equipped with surround sound, high resolution visuals and realistic branching options, from the moment a trainee or officer enters the simulator, they are immediately immersed in the training scenario. The best training simulator of all is the V-300®—a 5-screen, 300-degree immersive simulator—designed for powerful training and skill transfer. Each scenario is based off of real-life events, which are often difficult, stressful and full of stimuli, making it incredibly realistic.
Instructors can take advantage of this by adding another training element to the simulator: an actor in an impact reduction suit. After the officer has entered the scenario and has begun interacting with the characters on screen, instructors or other officers can step inside and confront the officer, prompt a fight, or in otherwise, encourage practicing DT in a realistic situation.
With the simulator immersing the officer in a different environment with different subjects on screen requiring attention, this forces the officer to make difficult decisions under pressure and practice under high stress circumstances, even though the environment is safe and controlled.
As mentioned above, the judgmental use of force simulator immerses officers in a realistic environment. While increasing realism and skill transfer, practicing DT in this manner also breaks away from block training. Rather than requiring officers to stand in a large classroom surrounded by mats, performing the same moves in numbered repetitions, this requires officers to think, adapt and make unforeseen, split-second decisions.
This is where the real learning and skill building comes in. After training in the simulator like this in multiple sessions over a period of time, the skill becomes long-lasting and easily accessed in the field.
Another important reason to train in DT in a police training simulator is how it challenges officers. Building off the previous point: training in this environment is more difficult than the quieter, less stimulating classroom setting.
Instructors may want to begin practicing skills such as Defense Tactics in the classroom setting, but should practice the skill in multiple ways for the information to be stored in long-term memory. Along with variety is the challenge itself: if it doesn’t challenge an officer, it will not change the officer.
People naturally grow and learn when we are challenged, which is especially true in training. To ensure the best results, instructors should create measurable, well-defined and obtainable goals, then practice these goals in classrooms, in the simulator and wherever else possible.
Through VirTra’s judgmental use of force simulators, officers can practice and become well-developed in a variety of potentially life-saving skills. With an extensive training scenario library found in each simulator, instructors can prepare officers in de-escalation, less lethal, lethal, mental illness, active threats and so much more. To learn more about these powerful training simulators, contact a VirTra specialist.
Agencies can effectively maximize their budget and de-escalation training with VirTra simulators. Each simulator is equipped with a wide variety of realistic scenarios, which have true-to-life branching options. Law Enforcement simulators also come with V-VICTA® —IADLEST-certified curriculum— for added training. Instructors can take this to the next level, because with VirTra, instructors have the ability to tailor training to their department’s needs.
Before custom-creating a scenario, instructors need the best system. VirTra recommends the V-300®, the higher standard for decision-making. This simulator features five screens that cover 300-degrees for intense training immersion. The ability to see each side of the situation increases the officer’s ability to observe the situation and make better-informed decisions in a heightened-stress environment.
While the 300-degree training simulator is an excellent beginning to creating realistic scenarios, the scene is not complete without props. Adding simple additions like chairs and tables to enhance the scenario improves the training content. After all, it is unlikely active threats will occur in open spaces without obstacles. Placing props throughout the training scenario allows participants to learn how to react and adapt to their surroundings in addition to providing them places to conceal and cover while evaluating threats.
To maximize your firearms training simulator, consider adding the V-Threat-Fire™. This consequence device simulates hostile actions—such as gunfire, explosions and dog attacks—adding real-world consequences to the training simulation. Combined with props such as walls and tables, trainees can learn where and when to shoot, if necessary. V-Threat-Fire is also instrumental in increasing stress responses and has been shown to result in better outcomes, thus maximizing training sessions.
Law enforcement and military personnel learn to expect the unexpected. VirTra’s firearms training simulators help participants to react to “curveballs” with sound judgment, which instructors can manipulate through the scenario’s extensive branching options. These situational curveballs keep participants engaged and constantly adapting to the situation, from rookies to seasoned officers. VirTra’s simulators teach judgmental use of force through these decisions, helping the team learn as much as possible per session.
What makes VirTra stand out in the virtual training simulation industry are the endless options for custom scenarios. Instructors can use V-Author® to import a panoramic image of a local scene or select a pre-programmed environment. From there, a library of characters, props, visual effects and animated targets can be added with a click of the mouse.
For example, if an instructor wanted to train officers for threats in a specific neighborhood, they could take a picture of that location and overlay characters in V-Author®. Placing participants in areas they commonly patrol allows them to become familiar with the area and threats that may appear.
Once the training simulation has completed, learning continues in the form of debrief. Trainers can debrief participants with a rundown of the consequences of their actions, as well as statistics on the number of shots fired and firing stance. After engaging with the simulation and seeing the consequences unfold, law enforcement officers can tailor their responses to earn the best results in the future. Contact VirTra for more information on our system and how it helps train judgmental use of force.
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.
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.
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.