Do you only allow one or two students in a training drill at a time, prohibiting others from watching? If so, you are not the only one. Some trainers worry that letting students watch others practicing scenarios will disturb their learning pattern. They will even go as far as instructing the students in the room to keep their actions in the scenario a secret so they don’t find out until they get into the training room themselves. According to Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, it is actually beneficial to have others watch and learn from example. There is no need to keep training a secret.


The Bandura Social Learning Theory

In 1977, social cognitive psychologist Albert Bandura discovered that people learn through watching others’ behavior and the outcomes (L., 2019). From this discovery came the Social Learning Theory, which can assure trainers that it is not a bad idea to let students watch and learn from others’ mistakes. The key to the Social Learning Theory is that people must have motivation to emulate the actions of others. In this case, part of their motivation comes from wanting to succeed in training.


VirTra’s Approach to Use of Force Training

VirTra Subject Matter Expert Lon Bartel taught force-on-force courses all around the country and chose to run drills with entire groups of trainees watching. “We learn by watching others, and not only what we should do but also what we shouldn’t do,” said Lon. “We learn by modeling, so nothing says you can’t have people watch others go through the scenario.”

Lon also brings up the point that students can have extra stress levels and motivation added on when they know their peers are watching. “Let’s face it, we hate failing when performing in front of our peers,” said Lon, “it freaks us out.” In addition to modeling behavior, students are encouraged to perform well in order to avoid making a mistake in front of the class.

When students observe a peer’s mistake and the correction issued by the instructor, they have already learned something and will likely avoid making the same mistake. In addition, if a student performed an action particularly well, others will model that behavior.

While Bandura’s Social Learning Theory is not the only way people learn, it can still save time and allow the class to learn faster. Training isn’t the same thing as testing, so although it isn’t necessary for people to watch, it won’t do any harm. Whether it is during a force-on-force drill or inside a VirTra simulated scenario, remember how powerful observation can be in education.



L., D. (2019, February 7). Social Learning Theory (Bandura). Retrieved from Learning Theories:


It is an incredible story. Recently, the San Francisco Police Crisis Intervention Team 2020 Police Commission Report was published, featuring some attention-grabbing facts and figures. One of the most notable: out of almost 50,000 crisis-related calls for service, San Francisco officers used force only 51 times. Percentage-wise, this is 00.1%—an astronomically low number.

This sort of success comes from many different factors. One attributing factor is the SFPD CIT Unit completing a 20-hour Force Science De-Escalation Course, which is an IADLEST nationally-certified course delivered through two days of instruction. The Force Science Institute offers this, and multiple other certified courses, in their mission to develop and spread high quality, scientifically-grounded education and training.

SFPD’s training department also has a VirTra training simulator. Their department utilizes the V-300®, a 5-screen immersive training environment that takes into account every detail, from the smallest pre-attack indicators to the most cognitive overload stimuli situations imaginable. These simulators offer scenarios containing training in de-escalation, situational awareness, judgmental use of force and other critical topics for the most well-rounded officers.

In addition to numerous training topics, each simulator comes equipped with nationally-certified curriculum, which spans topics such as: autism, mental illness, human factors, high risk vehicle stops and more. Each curriculum is created in conjunction with subject matter experts and nationally-recognized partners, including the Force Science Institute, for the best training possible. VirTra takes these extra steps because other’s modern research and professional insight create more powerful quality teaching materials which officers benefit from.

This is especially true in regards to crisis calls. VirTra’s Mental Illness for Contact Professionals curriculum covers how to recognize and interact with subjects suffering from: anxiety, dementia, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury and more. Knowing what symptoms to look for and knowing the best communication technique for the situation can make all the difference to how the situation ends.

As a result of better training, departments see better officer responses. While the San Francisco Police Crisis Intervention Team’s success is likely due to multiple factors, VirTra is proud to call them a customer and training partner and share their good story along with Force Science Institute. To read the entire article in its entirety, please click here.

To learn more about the V-300 simulator, or our nationally-certified curriculum, please contact a VirTra representative.

In the year 2020, there were 1,021 police-related fatalities across the United States. This is a number that has been steadily rising for years. It is a difficult situation for officers to be in, as use of force can be required to save the lives of civilians and the officers themselves—though in today’s world, it is often met with a media firestorm.

So what is a department to do? At times, it can feel like a no-win situation, since officers are following department protocol in dealing with a dangerous, non-compliant subject. Yet, the number of deaths continue to rise and so does pressure on departments.

One option to reduce the number of police-related fatalities and prevent media attacks is having a heavier focus on use of force training. Ideally, this would focus on increasing tactical skills, de-escalation techniques and weapon transitions between firearm and less lethal, and vice versa:

Increasing Tactical Skills

In order to maintain control over a situation, law enforcement officers must be able to maintain the tactical advantage—always be one step ahead of the subjects. This type of experience is difficult to recreate in a training environment, unless instructors utilize a real-life training simulator. Immersing officers in high-resolution video and the surround sound of high-stress situations is one of the best ways for trainees to practice gaining and keeping control of the situation. Skills learned in the simulator are easier to transfer to the field, making this form of training incredibly valuable.

De-Escalation Techniques

The first step to gaining control of the situation is attempting to de-escalate before less lethal or lethal force is required. However, not all interactions are simple, and therefore officers must know a variety of de-escalation tactics. VirTra partnered with Vistelar, a company specializing in conflict resolution, to create nationally-certified de-escalation training for officers. Departments who implement this training teach their officers how to work through conflicts verbally while recognizing important facial and body cues.

Weapon Transitions

Depending if the subject chooses to escalate the situation or become compliant to de-escalation tactics, officers need to know how to quickly transition between lethal and less lethal devices. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity; it is critical officers understand the tactical considerations of moving from one weapon to another, know how to improve speed and transition quality, and recognize time constraints with each. VirTra also offers nationally-certified training curriculum on this topic, which is paired with real-life scenarios. This allows trainees to learn the concept in the classroom before putting it into practice in the simulator.

The more departments push use of force and de-escalation training, the more ready their officers will be for the unforeseeable events in the field. Experience and knowledge go hand-in-hand in gaining control of a situation, which is why VirTra creates real-life scenarios for officers to practice in. Learn more by contacting a VirTra specialist.

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.

It is no surprise: we live in a time of ever-changing curriculum standards, training topics and law enforcement technologies. In regards to training, events in the past few years have stirred up nationwide discussions, which have further contributed to the redesign and rebuilding of our training programs.

As an instructor, it is your job to stay up-to-date with these trends and supply your officers with the much-needed training. TJ Alioto, VirTra Subject Matter Expert, broke down some of these topics in his 2021 ILEETA Presentation:


This is arguably one of the most requested (and demanded) tactics in the history of police training. De-escalation is complicated, as it encompasses many factors: words/phrases used, tone, body language, etc. Teaching officers to correctly read the situation and know the best form of de-escalation is a critical, though complicated, ability to teach.

Minimal Use of Force

While de-escalation may result in no force being used, minimal use of force focuses on using the smallest amount of force to achieve the desired result: control over the situation, a subdued subject, etc. This helps officers to learn the best form of force to use, in addition to times when lesser uses of force would actually be inadequate.

Implicit Bias

One difficulty as an instructor is deciding if there are even issues that need to be trained. One way to test implicit bias is by utilizing a training simulator, such as VirTra’s simulators. Officers can run through the same situation with the only change being to the subject(s) race and gender. Provided scenario metrics can be tracked to determine if an officer or agency is treating people differently based on race or gender.

Mentally Ill & Homeless

Currently, there are record numbers of homeless and mentally ill people living on the streets. As this number rises, officers need to be armed with knowledge of how to best answer these calls. Training simulators can teach officers to recognize various mental illnesses and the appropriate responses, while providing them with scenarios to practice these newly developed skills.

To learn more about current trends and policing, download VirTra Subject Matter Expert TJ Alioto’s 2021 ILEETA presentation.

Download the presentation here.

“Bridge Baby” is one of VirTra’s most difficult scenarios, as a simple mistake performed by an officer could quickly result in the death of a child or the subject.

The premise of the scenario is simple. Officers are dispatched to a bridge where a distraught father is threatening to throw his baby over the side. However, getting the upset father to set down his child, to calm down and listen to officer instructions is the difficult part. Depending on the officer’s actions, the father will comply with the officer, throw the child over the edge, commit suicide or shoot at the officer.

A difficult situation, yes, but an excellent one in teaching the power of verbal de-escalation.

For Sgt. Nick Shephard, Volusia County PD, he speaks calmly and gently to the subject in the scenario, “Absolutely, I care. Nothing more I care about right now than you, trust me.” As a result, the scenario branches and the man sets his child safely on the ground, then submits to being arrested.

What is remarkable about this story is how an increase in de-escalation training, as Sheriff Mike Chitwood credits, has produced a decline in police use of force incidents within their county. Sheriff Chitwood requires all new officers to engage in 40 hours of crisis intervention classes, which heavily promotes de-escalation while reducing “warrior mentality”. This program includes running officers through the VirTra system, practicing de-escalating each scenario by engaging in various tactics.

Another remarkable element of the story is how this change was inspired by Sheriff Chitwood’s trip to Scotland in 2015, where he saw and has since implemented new strategies to minimize the need for less lethal and lethal force in Tulliallan Castle, Police Scotland’s training center and headquarters. Now, years later with national cries for increased de-escalation training, Sheriff Chitwood’s officers are already armed with this increased knowledge.

Since implementing these changes, as this article states, “from 2017 to 2019, as the number of calls to authorities remained steady…the recorded frequency of Volusia deputies’ using force fell by nearly half, from 122 annual incidents to 65.”

De-escalation training must be a critical component to any department’s training regimen. VirTra understands this and has created training simulators and curriculum that teach not only de-escalation, but also marksmanship, less lethal, skill drills and other critical skills—thus rounding out any officer’s training.

To learn more about VirTra’s de-escalation scenarios, or the training simulator as a whole, contact a VirTra Specialist.

Judgmental use of force training is an important aspect of any officer’s training. As such, it should be revisited frequently to ensure officers always react appropriately to any situation they may face in the field. Defensive Tactics training is an important aspect of judgmental use of force and can be combined with virtual scenarios to train officers to handle scenarios effectively and safely.

The Elements of Defensive Tactics Training

Police should be regularly trained in each of the facets of Defensive Tactics. These include, but are not limited to:
• Strikes and Kicks—There are various ways to safely use strikes and kicks to incapacitate an aggressive or resistant subject.
• Evasion— Evasion teaches officers to shield themselves from aggressors to prevent any form of injury or incapacitation that makes apprehending the subject more difficult or impossible.
• Stances and Footwork—Officers must be able to position themselves appropriately to provide momentum or leverage required for effective strikes, kicks or evasion techniques.
• Timing—Timing is critical in Defensive Tactics, so learning when to move is just as important as learning how to move.
• Safety—Ultimately, officers must be trained to safely use Defensive Tactics to avoid unnecessary injury to themselves and/or others.

Why Virtual Use of Force Training is Helpful

Virtual training is an effective way to train officers in the various facets of Defensive Tactics training for several reasons. First, it allows police to visualize the way a suspect or aggressor may move in a fight, allowing them to work on timing, stances and footwork in an almost unlimited capacity. The incorporation of impact reduction training suits with VirTra’s state-of-the-art technology and in utilizing cameras, instructors can thoroughly review the officers’ training sessions and provide valuable feedback during debrief. Officers can utilize this feedback in future training sessions to improve their Defensive Tactics skills.

The Best Way to Learn Situational Combat Tactics

Perhaps the best reason to utilize virtual use of force simulators for Defensive Tactics training is due to the simulator’s ability to customize scenarios to the needs of the department or individual. Like traditional use of force training, Defensive Tactics is far more effective when situation or scenario-based. The inclusion of impact reduction suits and high fidelity simulation is a dynamic and effective way to bring all of the skills and officer needs together.

Exploring each of these situations—along with dozens of others—can help officers better understand the most appropriate way to react. This could potentially help officers avoid physical combat altogether in future cases. Contact a VirTra specialist to learn more about adopting this method of training in your department.

In today’s age of civil unrest and uncertainty, SWAT officers face incredibly dangerous situations in their day-to-day work. Since work can potentially be dealing with terrorists, armed gunmen or drug runners, the more training our officers have, the better equipped they become for any situation. This is why use of force and de-escalation training is such an important aspect of police SWAT training.

Threat Levels Can Vary

SWAT officers often deal with organized crime, meaning the threat rarely starts and ends with one individual—commonly, it is an entire group. Use of force training for SWAT officers is important because it helps officers learn to judge the level of threat carefully and accurately. Virtual training scenarios help SWAT officers answer the Graham Factors quickly and accurately:

How serious is the offense? Before using any type of force, SWAT officers must first consider the seriousness of the subject’s offense. Learning to gauge the seriousness in a matter of seconds can save the lives of the officer and subject.
Is the subject threatening officers or civilians? Virtual SWAT officer training also teaches LEOs to determine whether a suspect is a threat to themselves, other officers or civilians. The higher the threat the subject poses, the higher the likelihood that force may be necessary.
Is the suspect trying to flee, evade or resist arrest? It is important for SWAT officers to learn how to determine when a suspect is attempting to run or resist arrest. This question, combined with the two previous, helps officers ultimately determine whether force should be used—and if so—the type appropriate for the situation.

Quick Decisions Save Lives

Ultimately, judgmental use of force police SWAT training is designed to ensure officers use reasonable force when it is warranted to protect their own safety, as well as the safety of the subject and civilians. In SWAT situations, officers must be able to make instant decisions, as there isn’t much time for analysis.

The questions above must become ingrained into memory, helping officers react appropriately within seconds. Failing to utilize force where appropriate can lead to loss of civilian or officer lives; using force where it isn’t warranted can lead to disciplinary action and difficult repercussions.

Repetition is Key

Virtual training scenarios give instructors the ability to place SWAT officers in a wide variety of situations—that may or may not require force—and gauge those officers’ performances. The benefit to simulation training is that scenarios can be ran repeatedly, without a loss in performance, fidelity or change.

With occurring training, officers learn to analyze and make beneficial decisions in mere seconds, rather than acting out in fear, stress or anger. Over time, SWAT officers become better and quicker at determining the correct type of force to subdue a suspect and keep everyone involved safe.

Police SWAT training is all about familiarizing officers with the widest variety of human behaviors possible while preparing them to respond to a wide variety of variables. train your officers to remain physically and mentally resilient and ensure they have the tools to apprehend any suspect safely and effectively. Learn more about adopting simulation training by contacting 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.

Making Decisions Under Pressure

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.

Increases Training Realism

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.

Challenges and Long-Term Memory

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.

With everything currently in the media, police departments across the nation are undergoing a great deal of scrutiny for use of force instances and policies. In fact, certain websites have been dedicated to limiting use of force by further educating law enforcement officers as well as the general public. One of the best ways to ensure police officers make the best decision in a difficult situation that may require force is by utilizing a science-based, experience-based, judgmental use of force simulator like VirTra develops.

Use of Force Simulators

Judgmental use of force simulators immerse the student officer in a situation based off real-life events. To make the event as realistic as possible, the officer is equipped with lethal and less lethal tools that interact with the simulator and cause the on-screen subject to react accordingly.

The goal of these realistic police training simulators is to teach the trainee how to respond in the situation—which ranges from de-escalation to active shooters to mental illness. Instructors can use the simulator to train officers how to communicate effectively, properly de-escalate and which instances warrant a lethal option. To maximize training, judgmental use of force simulators are a great addition to a department’s existing training method, whether it be lectures or roleplaying.

The Importance of Use of Force Training

Training police officers about proper use of force is critical, today more than ever. However, many departments utilize their simulator to teach judgmental use of force every few months, if not once a year. Simply put, this is not enough training to ensure officers make the best decisions in difficult situations in the field.

It is through constant, diligent practice with that decision making from transitioning from weapon to less lethal in Urban and Rural environments in both daylight and low light conditions that officers can keep their skills sharp and department procedures fresh in their mind. Going further, practicing often also teaches officers how to make the best choices in any situation—a critical skill for the field.

Virtual Simulators vs. Other Training Methods

Simulators are designed to immerse officers in what feels like potentially dangerous situations. Each VirTra simulator is equipped with a variety of scenarios and curriculum that cover a wide array of training topics, as mentioned above, and the ability to customize certain scenarios to fit department needs.

Other training methods, such as lectures, roleplay or actors, can consume a lot of time and money or break the illusion of reality. This makes it difficult for training officers to learn stress inoculation or how to make the best decision in a difficult situation. Rather than sticking with just traditional forms of training, departments should enhance their training with the physical application through a use of force simulator.

The more often officers engage in judgmental use of force training methods and scenarios, the more prepared they will be in the field. While it is impossible to predict situations in advance, it is possible to train for them by utilizing use of force training simulators. Learn more by contacting a VirTra specialist.