I remember teaching at the police academy and as I was in the middle of telling a story to the class, one of the recruits spouted off, “You’re just making that up! There’s no way that really happened!” My response was simple: “Listen, if I was making it up, I would make up something you’d believe.”
What was the point of me mentioning this story? Well, if you’ve been in law enforcement for more than a day, you probably already figured out that anything can happen, at any time, at any place. Nothing is off limits. And that can include you responding to an active threat or active killer within a place of worship. Mass chaos ensues.
From 2006 – 2016, there were approximately 147 instances of gunfire on church grounds, resulting in 240 wounded and 84 deaths. (Lindner, 2023) The number of incidents occurring inside a place of worship continues to increase. If your jurisdiction includes any type of a place of worship, you need to include these types of locations in your training. Thankfully, VirTra has done the hard work for you!
There are 4 new active threat/active killer scenarios that all take place within a place of worship. The scenarios will be installed on your VirTra system during your next service update (if you have an active service plan).
“Mass Chaos” starts off with a growing number of 911 calls reporting an active shooter in a church. The calls continue, until they come to an incredibly loud crescendo, leading to the emergency dispatch to officers.
The scenario opens to the exterior of a church with law enforcement moving to stop the threat, and parishioners attempting to flee the scene. Within this multi-incident scenario, officers will have to make split-second decisions on who may or may not be a threat. They will also be tested on shot placement, accountability and maintaining their areas of responsibility. Single engagements, non-engagements and even hostage situations can all be used within the scenario.
The three other scenarios that are being released have all been made using “Mass Chaos” as a base. It has been subdivided into scenarios titled “Church Crisis,” “Holy Moly” and “Holy Hostage.”
These smaller scenarios utilize single engagements from the “Mass Chaos” incident, as well as additional assets using our V-Author® character library. We’ve also filmed an additional walk-up video for “Holy Hostage” to make it a more unique and unpredictable training event for the students to go through.
These scenarios combine an amazing blend of realistic radio traffic, panicked church goers and special effects that will raise the heartrate of even your most veteran officers. If you add VirTra’s V-Threat-Fire® device to the training, you’ll have added real-world consequences to the simulation.
VirTra is always looking to add new content to our training simulators. Look out for Mass Chaos, Church Crisis, Holy Hostage and Holy Moly during your next update!
Lindner, J. (2023, December 20). Church Shooting Statistics: Market Report & Data. Retrieved from Gitnux: htps://gitnux.org/church-shootng-statistics/
Published by Law Officer here
As part of the 2024 SHOT Show Law Enforcement Education Program Force Science’s Von Kliem and I reinforced the benefits of random practice over block practice in law enforcement skills training. Graduates of VirTra’s Advanced Trainer Certification Course or the Force Science Methods of Instruction Course are familiar with the research detailing the advantages of random practice for skill development. For those yet to be exposed to these advanced concepts, this article will outline the importance of random practice and its transformative effects on law enforcement training.
Law enforcement training has primarily relied on block practice for decades. In block practice, a single skill or technique is repeated repetitively before moving on to the next. This path allows the trainee to improve at each repetition of the skill, and most will show improvement over time. While block practice has short term benefits, it falls short in preparing officers for the dynamic and unpredictable nature of real-world policing. Block practice can lead to rote memorization and the illusion of proficiency, but it fails to prepare officers to adapt and apply skills in complex situations.
Random practice involves mixing and varying skill sets in training sessions. With random practice, officers must constantly shift their focus and adapt to different demands, a process that more closely replicates real-life challenges. This method enhances skill transfer, promotes critical thinking, and improves decision-making. Although practice sessions will predictably involve more frequent errors and improper skill choices, the long-term benefits are undeniable.
Adaptability: Random practice better simulates the unpredictable nature of law enforcement situations, preparing officers to respond effectively and swiftly in various scenarios. Instead of telling officers to deploy to a location where they will “draw and fire two rounds,” officers will be required to evaluate the problem, filter the signals, and identify the relevant information for decision-making and skill selection. Random practice fosters the ability to think on your feet and make split-second decisions, skills that are critical in high-pressure situations.
Retention and Transfer: By practicing a range of skills in a diverse and unexpected manner, officers are better able to retain and transfer their knowledge to new situations. Officers rarely get to execute a set play against a predictable offense. Instead, they learn to adjust among effective choice options identified and developed with random practice. This promotes a deeper understanding of the skills’ underlying principles, making it easier to apply them in unfamiliar contexts. Random practice challenges officers to think and problem-solve, improving their overall skill set. It helps them recognize patterns, adapt strategies, and develop a well-rounded approach to handling varied and novel situations.
Understanding the benefits of random practice begins with education and awareness. Meaning, to facilitate the highest level of performance and ultimately improve public safety, trainers must first familiarize themselves with the latest research and incorporate random practice into their training programs. By challenging officers with various skill choices, trainers can enhance officers’ adaptability, decision-making, and ability to apply techniques effectively. With random practice, we expect to elevate the skill and the transfer of those skills from the training room to the operating environment. Outcomes that will both protect our officers and the communities they serve.
Join me at SHOT Show next year, where we will continue to discuss the science of learning and the advantages of constraint-led approach to training.
To deliver the best possible training experience to our clients, we have partnered with industry experts. These partnerships have provided additional expertise in various certified V-VICTA curriculum offered.
VirTra has also worked with Haley Strategic and Action Target for applying lessons learned in the simulator to the real world. Whether it is decision-making or marksmanship, the important part of training is that it can be transferred to reality.
We appreciate and thank our partners for their contributions to our training, making it more sustainable and trustworthy.
A while back, VirTra released a Trainer’s Corner article addressing the fact that muscles don’t actually have memories. This comes from a very commonly repeated phrase in law enforcement. Many times, instructors will tell their students that they need to pull the trigger “x” number of times to develop “muscle memory”. This memory will then cause the finger to magically do what you’ve taught it to do…without you even thinking about it! Yeah, muscles still don’t have memories.
Along with “muscle memory,” you may have heard that it takes thousands of repetitions for you to master a skill, or to make it instinctive. I’ve read countless training articles stating what they believe the “magic number” of repetitions is. I’ve seen it as low as a couple hundred, to over 10,000. That’s quite a range.
In addition to the above, some people will say that it’s a matter of how much time you spend training to master a skill. Again, this amount of time that is suggested seems to vary quite a bit. Some suggest that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of a skill. To put it in perspective, 10,000 hours would take almost 7 years if you trained for 4 hours a day, every day!
So, when we train, what is really going on? How can we improve? Is there a “magic number” that we should aim for?
Your muscles respond to neurons firing from your brain. Your brain has the memories, and it tells your muscles what to do. The important question should be “how do I train my brain to tell my muscles what to do?” Yes, it’s not as sexy or cool as saying “muscle memory,” but it is more accurate!
Improving means teaching your brain to properly tell your muscles what to do. This is done through a variety of methods, many of which can be done on your VirTra simulator.
For example, if you are focusing on shooting more accurately or faster, you can start with drills that are very simple. This may include target shooting and then adding a shot timer. The important part is to make sure you aren’t increasing the level of difficulty before showing proficiency with the current skill.
Then you may want to add in movement to your training. Then you add in decision making, and so on. What you’re trying to do is to take the skill you want to master and apply it to any situation. Shooting fast is useless if you’re not accurate. Shooting accurate is useless if it wasn’t the right decision. So, in this example, you aren’t a master of shooting fast unless you can do it accurately and only when it’s appropriate (justified).
The last item I said I’d address was if there was any “magic number” that you should aim for when training. Short answer: no. Let’s face it, everyone is different. Every skill we want to learn is different. Circumstances surrounding the use of that skill are different. This means that the amount of time, repetitions, and drills to build up that skill are going to vary greatly. It is not as simple as saying more reps or more time is what is needed. Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. What we practice, how we practice and the context it is conducted are vital for transfer, or long-term learning. Context is a critical aspect of skill acquisition and transfer, learning a skill out of the context it is used is problematic. (Gray, 2021) (Hajian, 2019) (H. Ma, 1999)
As a trainer for 26 years, I’ve seen two things help people improve their skills the most. Training the skill properly and taking your time. That’s it. Do it right and do it as much as it takes until you can apply it to almost any situation.
Oh, and don’t forget to keep up on your training once you master a skill. While our muscles can’t forget things, our brains can.
Law enforcement training is a dynamic and evolving field that demands exceptional instructors to guide officers toward their full potential. In the pursuit of excellence, law enforcement instructors must embrace the values of humility, continuous learning, and personal growth. As the famous phrase goes, “When the master is no longer the student, they are no longer the master.” This profound statement highlights the essential link between an instructor’s willingness to remain a lifelong student and their ability to cultivate an exceptional learning environment for law enforcement professionals. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of humility, continuous learning, and growth in the context of law enforcement training and discuss how these qualities can elevate instructors to new levels of mastery.
Humility lies at the core of effective law enforcement instruction. Instructors must acknowledge that they do not hold all the answers and that their knowledge is ever-growing. A humble instructor recognizes that there is always room for improvement, that they can learn from their students, and that they are open to different perspectives. By setting their egos aside, instructors create an environment where officers feel encouraged to share their ideas and experiences. This fosters collaboration between instructors and students, allowing for a rich knowledge exchange and facilitating the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
To be an exceptional instructor, one must never stop learning. Continuous learning ensures that instructors remain up-to-date with the latest advancements, techniques, and best practices in law enforcement. Stagnation can lead to outdated teaching methods that fail to address the realities faced by officers in the field. By actively seeking out new knowledge, participating in professional development opportunities, and engaging with subject matter experts, instructors can provide their students with the most relevant and practical training. Continually expanding their knowledge base, instructors enhance their expertise and inspire their students to embrace a lifelong learning mindset.
Individual growth is not only crucial for law enforcement officers but also for instructors themselves. Personal growth extends beyond acquiring technical skills; it consists of developing emotional intelligence, cultivating effective communication, and refining leadership abilities. Instructors who prioritize personal growth are better equipped to connect with their students on a human level, relating to their struggles, and empowering them to reach their full potential. Additionally, personal growth allows instructors to adapt their teaching methods to accommodate different learning styles and needs, ultimately enhancing the overall learning experience.
Integrating humility, continuous learning, and personal growth creates an exceptional learning environment for law enforcement professionals. When instructors embody these qualities, they set a positive example for their students, encouraging them to embrace their own growth journeys. Instructors who humbly acknowledge their limitations promote a safe space where officers feel comfortable asking questions and seeking guidance. A commitment to continuous learning ensures that instructors provide the most relevant and effective training for real-world scenarios officers face. Personal growth empowers instructors to understand and address officers’ unique challenges, fostering empathy and support throughout the learning process.
In law enforcement training, exceptional instructors understand that the journey to mastery is ongoing. By adhering to humility, continuous learning, and personal growth, instructors can achieve the highest level of excellence in their craft. They inspire their students to develop the same qualities, creating a collaborative and progressive learning environment. As the adage reminds us we must maintain an open mind and the open heart of our greatest students. Let us embrace the philosophy of perpetual learning and growth, for it is through these endeavors that we become exceptional law enforcement instructors who empower officers to serve and protect with the utmost competence and compassion.
Violent crime is up[i] yet there are still some calls to defund the police. There are a few different issues with this, but here are the main two: First, it can cause the crime rate to spike even higher. Second, it does not solve the underlying issues. The call for defunding has been a political response to claims of excessive force, many of which have been based around a false narrative such as the “hands up don’t shoot” fallacy.[ii] It is upsetting to hear when police officer abuses their power or acts out of conduct, but what has been shown is that officers overwhelmingly do it right. In the insanely difficult circumstances where officers must make decisions under unbelievably tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situations providing training is the way to increase performance and improve outcomes. Not just more training but scientifically based training methods with high efficacy that can make an impact.
It is easy to spin and twist data to suit a particular narrative. When you hear that 1,147 people were killed by police in 2018, it sounds shocking, yet when you consider that police made contact with approximately 61.5 billion people in 2018, that brings the percentage of people to 0.001%.
The data also does not show which killings were considered unjustified. Remember that if an officer or another person’s life is in danger because of someone’s actions, deadly force is justified. If someone is shooting at an officer or putting lives of the public at risk, deadly force is likely the answer to stop the threat. Unfortunately, there are situations where the officers’ actions are wrong – whether it is with malicious intent or not – and in those cases, then the criminal justice system should be used to establish the appropriate actions.
Most calls for defunding are not saying they want to abolish the police force altogether. Protestors arguing for this cause believe the money would be better off redirected elsewhere. The problem is that without adequate funding, officer training will suffer. There is already a tiny portion of funds that goes towards training – with less money, it will only get worse.
Many issues that cause people to believe the police should be defunded are more likely to be corrected with more effective training. The incidents where negligent actions led to people hurt or killed by killed the police could be attributed to the fact that the officers were either not well trained, did not follow their training, or both.
With the right instruction and training programs, the likelihood of mistakes and misconduct decreases. De-escalation training that may calm an irate subject and less lethal transitions that ensure an officer uses the right level of force are just two examples of how the community can be safer when better instruction is provided.
As incidents occur around the country, VirTra does its best to keep up with training curriculum and scenarios to match. Some examples include Duty to Intervene or Weapon Transitions. Mistakes will happen, as they do in all fields of work, but preparation and confidence lower the chances of those mistakes.
Simulated scenarios and immersive learning techniques can help put trainees in an environment that is close to real life, making it much more effective than bookwork. To learn about our ever-growing library of scenarios and incorporate VirTra in your training regimen, contact a specialist.
When used properly, de-escalation can reduce police use of force. While not every situation permits de-escalation—as some subjects are noncompliant no matter what—there are times when the proper tone of voice or choice of words can calm the subject or reduce the chance of them becoming out of control.
Recently, many agencies have heavily focused on maximizing law enforcement de-escalation training to lower the frequency of force used by their officers. To help further this training, VirTra has produced two nationally-certified de-escalation courses that are free for all law enforcement clients.
This training—De-Escalation and Crisis De-Escalation—has a total of 6 training hours which encompasses coursework, presentations, and de-escalation training scenarios. As nationally-certified materials, they fall under the V-VICTA®—Virtual Interactive Coursework Academy—program, along with other skill-building curriculum.
Born from a partnership between VirTra and the conflict experts at VISTELAR, this 4-hour course allows officers to practice de-escalating situations before they become detrimental. In the course, this is referred to by VISTELAR as “non-escalation.” Paired with simulator scenarios that allow the officer to practice verbal de-escalation, this course is dedicated to improving communication.
This 2-hour course is designed to help officers better identify crisis behaviors and use their VirTra simulator’s real-world scenarios to practice their skills. Like “De-Escalation” and other V-VICTA courses, Crisis De-Escalation provides ample time for training in lifelike scenarios.
The video below shows two officers utilizing a popular scenario, “Bridge Baby.” In this scenario, officers confront a man holding an infant over a bridge. Officers in the simulator must use communication skills to calm the man and convince him to put down the baby and surrender.
With a wide variety of environments, situations and subjects, instructors have an extensive choice of training options for their officers. Everything from unruly bystanders to emotionally disturbed persons – VirTra aims to cover as much territory as possible to prepare law enforcement for unpredictable situations.
The best part is that these two courses are already NCP-certified by IADLEST. This saves agencies a lot of time by not having to write and certify their own curriculum. Both courses – as well as other V-VICTA courses – have all the materials needed. From instructor manuals to testing materials, it is all included.
It is important to note that nearly every scenario in VirTra’s library has an option for de-escalation. VirTra goes beyond “shoot-don’t-shoot” by providing various branching options that depend on the training points.
For more information on our de-escalation courses, please contact a VirTra specialist.
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
Whether you’re a veteran law enforcement trainer or new to the department, training classes can be challenging to cut out time to write, create and plan out. With the help of our expert trainers, VirTra has created the Advanced Training Certification Course (ATCC). This five-day, 40-hour course is designed to give trainers the ability to excel, improve department goals, and ensure that your simulators and scenarios are utilized to their potential. ATCC takes place at our headquarters to provide certified training to trainers on a variety of topics including:
Our ATCC course starts off the week with a certified course on Simulation Science. This course is highly praised for its teaching methods. It is an 8-hour NCP-certified class covering the reality of current training for law enforcement and the role of simulation. One unit focuses on the effectiveness of teaching with adult learning concepts, where the transfer of skills becomes an integral part of training effective law enforcement officers.
This class starts with an assessment of the trainer’s skills with the VirTra simulator. It later progresses through the best methods and techniques to keep your simulator in peak condition. By starting with the basics such as an introduction to the weapon recoil kits and other calibration tools, the class breaks down the basics before building on those skills. Then, with the use of VirTra’s advanced features, each trainer is given specific attention to gauge their current skills. It will show where they could be using other features of VirTra’s extensive library of scenarios and drills.
If practice makes perfect, then for every hour on the range, the trainees should have a perfect shooting stance. However, we know that trainers have to teach marksmanship in a variety of environmental factors. The V-Marksmanship course discusses the building blocks for adding a simulation training regiment as part of your firearms training. Covering a wide selection of topics such as three points of coverage and low light training, trainers will then duplicate this in an exercise of their own design following this formula.
One of our most popular training topics is V-VICTA®. This section of ATCC discusses what V-VICTA is, how to use it, and why it is helpful. VirTra’s V-VICTA is filled with 90+ hours of certified training, and many agencies don’t know about it. VirTra’s instructors who have authored these courses discuss best practices of incorporating it. Additionally, attendees will learn how to access the coursework and present it effectively.
This section of the course wraps up with a breakdown of how to use our coveted V-Author® scenario tools which provides the ability to create your own scenarios from scratch with a panoramic photo. After covering the essential function, the instructor breaks the class into groups. Next, each group creates a customized scenario for topics such as a multi-incident or their department’s firearms qualification course. By customizing scenarios, trainers can drive their training techniques for specific training issues for their agency.
This week-long advanced training course allows VirTra customers to improve on their skills as trainers. It helps them see the potential of what they can add to their current simulation training techniques.
If you would like to sign up for an ATCC course this year, check out our Eventbrite page to sign up.
When selecting a training method for your officers, you want to make sure that you are choosing one that has scientific evidence behind it while also keeping your teams engaged and retention rates up. You can get all of these things when you train with the VirTra simulators!
VirTra prides itself in its work with science-based technology for law enforcement. With that, our technology and curriculums are designed to immerse trainees into real-world scenarios that help them develop their decision-making skills, firearm skills and much more in a way that has been proven to be effective.
With the simulator comes a variety of training applications and focuses. From crisis response and de-escalation to marksmanship, different trainers will likely all choose different focuses depending on what they see as a priority at the time. But all of these focuses play important roles in rounding out the officer training experience.
One question some might have is how to train their officers in all these different ways without overwhelming them with so much information that they are no longer processing and retaining it. David Blake, police practices/force response expert and law enforcement trainer, did some research on how to keep learner retention up and found information on trainees’ limited processing capabilities and how training simulators can play a part in increased learner retention.
He found a concept that was studied called Cognitive Load Theory. Cognitive Load Theory suggests that learners have a limited amount of mental resources that can be divided into three categories; intrinsic, extraneous, and germane loads. Blake explains, “In general, our instructional goal should be to manipulate intrinsic load into manageable pieces while decreasing extraneous load and increasing germane load for optimal learning”.
Which, in simpler terms, means that trainers should break the content into desirable difficulty pieces, minimize unnecessary information, and decreasing the number of training methods to help achieve long-term memory storage for trainees.
Blake goes on to explain that training simulators are a really useful way to implement this suggestion. Students can learn through watching their trainer go through a scenario, pausing at key points for them to ask questions and absorb the information. When they are ready students can then work through the scenarios on their own, still pausing at key points to absorb their simulated surroundings and answer the problem before continuing. Eventually, students will be able to run through the scenarios fully on their own with no pauses.
He concludes that using the simulator in this way is an effective method because, “The student’s full attentional resources are focused on the learning objective instead of those goals being lost in the dynamics of the scenario”.
To read through the whole study called Force Options Simulators: An Underutilized Training Tool by Dave Blake, click here!
For more information on our science and research-based simulators and curriculum, contact a VirTra specialist today!