There are key phrases that we hear in law enforcement training and culture. These include “I got your six” “watch your six” or “check your six.” These are referencing the importance of being able to look behind you at the 6 o’clock position to keep yourself safe and not get ambushed from behind. This “checking six” could be done by you by keeping your head “on a swivel” or by a partner who is “covering your six.”

These phrases are embedded in the vernacular of law enforcement and the military. Why is this the case? Because history has shown the attack we don’t see coming is the one that is going to take us out. By getting in the habit of “checking 6” we can negate the danger that resides in attacks from behind. These are an overwhelming threat, which needs to be addressed and trained for. With this principle being so critical to officer safety, why do we do such a horrible job training for them?

I have watched what Pat McNamara has called range theatrics – or what others have called the range dance. Where after a live-fire string we do a ‘body-turn, head-turn’ pretending to “check six” but don’t see anything. I have held up large printed cards and fingers and asked folks after their dance to tell me what they saw. I have held up fingers to see if they can identify the number and which ones are up. The universal answer is, “what do you mean?” The reason for this answer is that they don’t actually “see” anything. When it came to the fingers it was usually one held up and you can imagine which one based on the lack of situational awareness ability demonstrated.

This same thing can happen with single-screen training simulators. If not used properly, with a single-screen system, you are running the risk of building in training scars. The concept that we “don’t rise to the occasion, we default to our lowest level of training” has to be evaluated in this light. If we are creating emotional states inside the simulation (and we should be) yet we are not engaging in physical and mental skills we need in the real world, we could be creating failure points.

Single-screen systems are insanely difficult to create reverse angles on – not impossible, but difficult. The minimum standard to ensure this task can be done with high fidelity is a 180-degree system. This allows for that reverse angle to be threatened and the need to “check six.” You can create points of reference that requires the participant’s scan behavior by using simulated doors and windows taped off in a single-screen room, but that is not high fidelity. VirTra knew the value of a multiscreen system over 20 years ago – despite naysayers arguing that it was “too much” and “unnecessary.” VirTra pushed the training principle anyway.

I get it – most agencies will buy a single screen system and be thrilled they are running their judgmental shoot or weapon transitions. It is not bad to train with them if you are short on space, but it does not take much more room to set up a 180-degree high-quality simulator and force these angles. When it comes to purchasing a 180-degree or 300-degree system, I have heard the arguments on cost as well. VirTra offers a STEP program where access to the simulator is subscription-based and not a large capital purchase. This STEP program allows much access to a high-fidelity 180-degree/300-degree simulator for a lower starting point.

You can find space, even pairing up and hosting it with a research institute. There are ways to make high-quality high-fidelity 180-degree or ideally 300-degree simulators affordable, which are amazing training tools. They can be used for active threat/active killer (ATAK), TASER training, de-escalation, VirTra is here to make it affordable with the STEP program, because we got your six (IGY6)!

For more information on the STEP program, our content or our simulators, Contact Us.

Jefferson College is a fully accredited two-year college in Hillsboro, Missouri, that is also the site of the Jefferson College Law Enforcement Academy, a CALEA-accredited facility that provides training for law enforcement recruits as well as sworn police officers from the St. Louis area. Diane Scanga, Director of Campus Safety for Jefferson College, was faced with a dilemma – upgrading her department’s aging firearms training simulator with something that was more user-friendly but didn’t seem like a video game. Her search led her to the VirTra and VirTra’s V-180 judgmental use of force simulator.

Installed in 2015, the VirTra V-180 replaced a single screen firearms training simulator system and instantly upgraded the academy’s training capabilities. “Our old FAT system was a tethered system. It didn’t feel real, and we found that VirTra had the best product for the money,” Scanga said. The V-180 simulator offers three screens with a 180 degree field of view, and comes equipped with a variety of weapons, including Glock 9mm, rifle, and Taser® options. The academy instructors appreciate the realistic virtual reality shoot/no shoot scenario training experience that the weapons and software provides, especially the VirTra Taser shock system, which helps law enforcement officers and trainees learn a valuable and sometimes painful lesson in shoot/no shoot situational training that is not felt in a game.

These physiological responses place law enforcement officers and trainees physically and mentally in scenarios in which lives could are at stake. “The [VirTra firearms training simulator] system is very immersive. You feel like you are in the middle of a real situation, and our officers are amazed at how realistic it is. The V-180 really ups the ante on our use of force training,” Scanga added. Jefferson even warns enrollees before they register for the V-180 firearms training simulator training classes that “stress is inherent in this training” and that participants should consider physical condition prior to taking V-180 use of force training.”

The VirTra V-180

In addition to the hands-on experiences found in the VirTra V-180 use of force scenarios, Jefferson instructors include discussions on use of force trends and current case law, and trainees also receive instruction on the judgmental use of force continuum and how an officer’s presence and verbal skills can help them avoid escalating volatile situations. Communication skills are emphasized, and participants learn how to successfully de-escalate and possibly prevent an encounter with a subject becoming a situation that involves use of force.

VirTra’s V-180 firearms training simulator has become the centerpiece of the four-hour judgmental use of force training sessions that Jefferson offers for academy students and local law enforcement officers seeking to maintain their training certifications. This has helped Jefferson to become a hub for virtual reality law enforcement simulator training in the St. Louis area – something that VirTra thinks more colleges and universities should strive to achieve.

Increased Collaboration 

Increased collaboration between colleges, their campus police departments and local law enforcement can allow them to work together to pool resources and fund training and equipment purchases that include state of the art technology like VirTra Systems Inc. Local law enforcement can take advantage of the classroom space that colleges can offer, and colleges can generate additional revenue streams in the form of leased space, instructor time and training equipment use. These win/win approaches are something that more agencies need to pursue in order to ensure that their officers can receive the best, most comprehensive judgmental use of force training in today’s budget-constrained environment.