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!
As a trainer, our goal should always be to equip our officers and agents with the best tools and techniques for the task at hand. We like to refer to our duty belt as our tool belt. OC, baton, taser, handcuffs, sidearm and magazines are all placed in a position where we can get to them quickly and are staged in a manner that ensures they can be deployed easily using the least amount of effort. We call this “economy of effort.” We emphasize the importance of being able to reach our gear without looking and holster our tools by feel. Through repetition and refinement, we hone our techniques to the level of unconscious competence. These are all very important aspects of training, but how are we preparing our officers and agents for situations that don’t go as planned.
“Check the box” training has become the go-to for many agencies because it’s the minimum standard. I get it, I was there too; legal updates, new equipment training (N.E.T.) and policy review are all very important, but ask yourself as a trainer: what are we doing to help develop our officers’ mindsets?
In my 32 years of combined law enforcement and military experience, I’ve seen training go through a lot of transitions. I’ve trained with a lot of great instructors and some that weren’t so great. I can remember times in training when it seemed like the instructor wasn’t really training us to be good, he was actually just showing us how good he was. I know you’ve been there, the freakin’ “gotcha” scenarios that left you thinking, how the hell did I miss that guy hiding in the dishwasher? You remember, the one who shot you six times with marking cartridges while the rest of the cadre laughed about it…Anyway, I digress.
It’s been said that our mind is our most powerful tool, but how do we train our mind to win in situations that in reality last for mere seconds and often catch us off guard? We can achieve this by developing a winning mindset. I was first exposed to the wining mindset in 2010 while attending an advanced S.W.A.T. course. Four agencies had come together to attend the training provided by a company called Fulcrum Tactical Training. The lead instructor was one of the best I’ve been exposed to. At the end of a long week, the final training exercise (FTX) was a drill they called the Mumbai drill. The FTX took place in an abandoned fire extinguisher plant that consisted of office spaces, warehouses, machine shops and loading docks. There were four teams, two of which were assigned a protectee. The goal was for the teams with the protectee to move through the compound reaching certain checkpoints while being hunted by the other teams. It was a great evolution that involved team movement, communication and weapon manipulation. We were all armed with Simunitions guns and we were all wearing full kit. It was intense.
At one point as we were moving our protectee through an office space to reach an exit that was in a corner office, we came into contact with one of the other teams following not too far behind. As our rear security called out contact, the other team was on us. My teammate took the shot from about seven yards and the other team continued to advance. My teammate yelled out “hey I shot you” but the point man for the opposing force replied “S.W.A.T doesn’t die” as he muzzle-punched him in his protective plate and pushed past him. I remember thinking during the debrief, that was kind of corny and that they weren’t fighting fair. The debrief was fairly eye opening for me. When my teammate confronted the officer about his comment the officer’s reply was amazing. He said “that wasn’t meant for you, that was for me.” The “S.W.A.T. doesn’t die” comment was the result of a well-trained mindset.
Keep in mind that the only real goal in any fight is to live. Whether its natural disaster, a use of force encounter or a health crisis, our mindset should always be to win. Working at VirTra on the training and content team has provided me the unique ability to create content that is realistic and relevant to modern law enforcement. If you are debriefing your students using the Socratic method, you enable them to recognize their mistakes on their own. Plainly put, learning has occurred. Once the student has recognized his mistake, a good repetition will help to set it in stone. Lou Holtz once said “Set a goal and ask yourself, what’s important now.” He uses and acronym that spells W.I.N. which stands for what’s important now. He said, “If you set a goal and don’t ask yourself what’s important now, you don’t have a goal, you have a wish list.”
Every day that we put on that uniform and with each encounter that we have, our goal needs to be to win. Training our mind in a realistic simulated environment helps develop that wining mindset through proper repetition. Remember, practice does NOT make perfect if you are getting bad repetitions in. Perfect practice leads to proper performance. Let your students get perfect repetitions in to sharpen their most powerful and practical tool: their mind.
This article was written by Mike Clark, VirTra Law Enforcement Subject Matter Expert
The stress-inducing electrical V-Threat-Fire® device brings consequences into the VirTra training simulator. By clipping it to a trainee’s belt, the instructor can activate the device to simulate all safety threats to include gun shots (return fire), dog bites, explosions and other serious threats. With the ability to change the duration and intensity of the activation, there are realistic possibilities to supply negative consequences.
Unlike other consequence methods such as those that fire projectiles, the Threat-Fire requires no clean-up and far less risk of injury. There is no aiming required and the device can be activated by clicking your mouse. Additionally, the V-Threat-Fire is tetherless; no wires mean more freedom for movement within the simulator.
The V-Threat-Fire gets trainees to take the simulation seriously by providing a low-grade shock. The device has been tested extensively to ensure that there are no medical risks during use. The electrical stimulation also creates a distraction that officers have to work through, allowing them to complete the task at hand despite the disturbance.
Stress is a powerful psychological tool that can prepare trainees to perform effectively in difficult situations in the field. Proper implementation helps bring stress inoculation capabilities into a simulated scenario, better preparing officers for life in the field.
It is understandable for tactical mistakes to have a pain penalty. However, using pain to get a student to act when no threats exist is not only questionable, but hazing. Abusing the V-Threat-Fire or activating it too frequently will not get the training result you want. It actually will diminish the effect of the penalty.
Instructors may wish to communicate the intent behind the use of the V-Threat-Fire, especially to recruits and trainees who may feel wary of it. In this case, be sure that trainees understand that there is proven training value to adding consequences in the form of stress during training. The device should not be used as a hazing method or to be used as a plaything, but to achieve transferrable results.
The V-Threat-Fire is a patented device that is designed only for use within VirTra’s simulators. To learn more about its benefits and how to implement it into your training regime, contact a specialist.
Once you have your simulator installed, there are still dozens of other ways we can help you continually build your training program. While obtaining the simulator certainly is a step in the right direction when it comes to having an effective training regimen, it can be overwhelming to learn everything and implement it right away. For this, VirTra has a solution – the Advanced Trainers Certification Course (ATCC).
ATCC is designed for current VirTra customers with six or more months of experience owning a VirTra simulator. Regardless of what system you own and whether you are a service member or law enforcement officer, this class will provide great benefit in helping you learn the ins and outs of the system.
This course is 5 days long running from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. While the first day goes over the science behind why simulator use is effective as well as important training techniques to pass onto your agency or unit, the next four allow hands-on work with various vital tools. Some of these include V-Author®, V-VICTA™, marksmanship and even troubleshooting.
Each day allows police and military members of the class to learn from experienced instructors and subject matter experts. The instructors have had direct contact with all of the products and software and are equipped to handle questions with ease. Additionally, the class is provided with surveys for each instructor to ensure to be filled out anonymously, allowing VirTra to continuously evolve ATCC to become better.
After learning and being tested on various concepts related to advanced operations of the VirTra system, hardware and software, all attendees are able to return to their agencies or bases with newly gained knowledge to share with peers. VirTra greatly encourages current customers who have had their simulator for six months or more to consider attending one of these informative courses to considerably build their confidence in operating the system. Additionally, clients who have successfully completed all five days will receive a certification to prove they are now an Advanced VirTra Operator.
To view upcoming classes, visit our Eventbrite page here. If you would like more information on the courses or anything else VirTra-related, contact a product specialist.
There will come a time when you hit a plateau—everyone does. Though this is normal, it can be incredibly frustrating, especially when training a critical skill. However, hope is not lost. Instead, Lon Bartel, VirTra’s Director of Training and Curriculum, recently presented at ILEETA 2021 and touched on this topic. According to research¹, there are two ways to increase motivation when training gets difficult:
You can be your best source of motivation. Take time to reflect on why perfecting this skill (or remembering this information) matters so much. Another option is to write down these reasons and hang it in an area you frequently inhabit. Remember that every person goes through a slump like this, but that commitment to continue is the only remedy.
The desire to quit is always heavy at this point. In fact, the main reasons people quit are: fear of failure, fear of success, laziness, failing to believe in oneself, weakness in the skill and frustration.
Failure is never fun, but it is a part of life. Laziness can strike, but officers must create motivation to keep going. Weakness is temporary, but only practice will strengthen the skillset. Keeping this in mind can help increase motivation while reducing the urge to quit.
Another tip when reaching a plateau is to experiment. If you have been training a certain way for so long, find a new way of training that skill. Consult with experts in that field and implement their advice. Work to reframe your mindset, and thus avoid the burnout.
One example is marksmanship training as a law enforcement officer. Shake up the training routine by spending time focusing just on just the weapon recoil. Or create smaller acceptable error rates that require you to slow down. If you’re training by yourself or with a small group, audibly talk your way through each step and see if you catch anything. Looking at training at a different angle may create the motivation you need.
To learn more about maintaining motivation in training, download VirTra Director of Training and Curriculum Lon Bartel’s 2021 ILEETA presentation.
1. Eddie O’Connor, “Deliberative Practice: Essential for Experts”, The Psychology of Performance: How to be Your Best in Life. Amazon Digital Service 2017
The entire world of law enforcement experienced significant changes and challenges throughout 2020—and now, half of 2021. This has caused a massive focus on law enforcement’s training, interaction with community members, their role in complex cases, ability to de-escalate and more.
In order to ensure your department can answer your community’s concerns—and guarantee your training is up-to-date—instructors must evaluate current police training methods against what science has proven to be effective.
To make the instructor’s life easier, the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) and its Partner Advisory Committee (IPAC) created a science-based learning digital report available to read and download.
In this document is an article written by Lon Bartel, VirTra’s Director of Training and Curriculum, titled “How Evidence-Based Training Developed and Evolved”. This article describes the goals of evidence-based training and how to implement it into your training regimen to create the best, most prepared officers.
To make understanding easier, Lon breaks it up into three sections: evidence-based training in action, the barriers to evidence-based training and transitioning to evidence-based training.
Instead of keeping your department stuck in a training rut, provide your officers—and your community—with the best training possible. Start utilizing the research-based training so many companies readily provide.
If you would like to read more of Lon Bartel’s piece, it begins on page 5 of the document.
It is no surprise: becoming an expert takes a lot of time, dedication and motivation. Whether the goal is work-oriented or a personal hobby, such as becoming an excellent marksman or athlete, both require the same checklist. These list items below were presented by Lon Bartel, VirTra’s Director of Training and Curriculum, during the 2021 ILEETA conference:
Personal motivation is a critical element. After all, you cannot force someone to become and expert in an area they do not care about—they will not put forth the effort or dedication necessary. Instead, people need to establish their own reasons to take part.
Before beginning, set measurable, obtainable goals. It is important to be specific while ensuring the goal is quantitative enough to be measured. For example, in regards to the marksmanship skill, having the goal to shoot with 90% accuracy or the ability to draw and fire 1 round at 7 yards in 1.75 seconds are both specific and measurable.
As mentioned in a previous article, if the training doesn’t challenge you, it will not change you. People naturally grow and adapt when challenged, otherwise we become complacent and plateau. The feelings of unease and failure are necessary, but it is overcoming the struggle that allows people to increase their skills.
Unfortunately, every person hits a plateau where they don’t see any growth or improvement. This is natural, though naturally, causes frustration. During times like these, you may want to blow off training, but this is when it is most critical! Frequent daily practice of dedicated focus will get you up and over the hump to a place where you can see great results again.
Without feedback, how will you know the areas needing improvement? Or exactly how close you are to meeting your goal? The best types of feedback are coaches, videos and forms of measurable performance. Without feedback, you cannot efficiently learn or improve.
This may not be something you thought of, but in the pursuit of excellence, you need to carve out recovery time. Rest for the body is just as critical as the brain, since it provides time for neural pathways to be consolidated. For most skills, a proven method is practicing with complete focus for 1 hour followed by an extended break.
Instructors and officers alike can apply these principles to whatever skill they are focusing on, whether it be personal or duty-related. Train smarter, train harder and train better with these tips on achieving expertise.
To learn more about becoming an expert, download VirTra Director of Training and Curriculum Lon Bartel’s 2021 ILEETA presentation.
Before becoming a law enforcement officer, there are a few pathways students can take. Usually, they will study Criminal Justice in college before attending a police academy. Some students, however, begin their interest in a law enforcement career early enough and begin learning in high school. Career and technical education (CTE) programs have allowed high school students to take courses based on individual interests – including law enforcement.
Tom White of Taft Union High School in California understands the unique learning needs of high school-aged students and has combined that knowledge with the technology and efficiency of a VirTra simulator. Using a V-100® simulator, White’s students have improved their communication skills and better understand the split-second decision-making processes that officers go through on a day-to-day basis.
White was able to fund the V-100 through grant funds, assuring that there are grants available for CTE programs. Additionally, White is currently in the process of obtaining a grant for a V-DTS™ – VirTra’s Driver Training Simulator—to allow for further realism in training and expects to have the Driver Simulator in the next few months.
“You can’t take a student into the field at 16 or 17. Having the driver simulator allows me to simulate them in their own squad car and simulate a call going out on the radio” said White, whose goal is to have students operating the V-DTS when answering a call, then traveling to the destination. Then, students will step out of the V-DTS and enter the V-100 to “respond” to the situation.
Although the V-DTS is still in the purchasing process, simply using the V-100 has allowed White to see notable results and improvement in decision making skills and communication fluency. He has seen 25-30% of his students develop leadership qualities and the ability to confidently give direction. Being able to practice in a simulated environment that is both safe and realistic will allow young students to develop the proper mindsets and prepare themselves early on for a difficult but rewarding career in law enforcement.