Virtual reality of all kinds has taken the world by storm and offered unique ways to learn. This does not just apply to first responders either – VR is used everywhere from the medical field to cell phone provider retailers. From screen-based to headsets, their use has gone far beyond just entertainment.
Simulation training is not a new concept, despite all the new military and law enforcement technology training options. In the mid- to late-1900’s, simulation took the form of medical dummies and models of limbs (Singleton, 2022). It has been a method for trainees in various careers to learn from experience in a safe environment. What has changed is the technology – but the training points of learning by doing have stayed the same.
Just like simulation training in general, VirTra’s products have also evolved with time. The end goal of ensuring police officers and military servicemembers get home safely every night is something that has not changed. Some of our notable evolutions include 4K projection – something that has yet to be done in the law enforcement simulation training industry.
VirTra announced the V-300® 4K nearly three years ago at IACP 2019. Simulators with these projectors were shipped to clients around the world in 2020. Many law enforcement agencies have taken advantage of this unique high-definition technology – one example is Orlando PD. They have been able to train their de-escalation tactics as well as practice interactions with those who have a mental illness.
The 4K projectors allow high-quality video projection to be displayed on the screens of the training simulator. Law enforcement officers can benefit from the increased detail, allowing them to notice subtle cues such as facial expressions and movements. The 4K simulator has made law enforcement use of force training much more realistic than before.
Some types of simulation technology take time to evolve into a reliable source of training. CGI is commonly used, but does not show realistic images. While CGI in movies and video games has come a long way, many simulation companies that utilize CGI in virtual reality training have low quality images. This causes the simulation to appear like a 90’s video game character rather than a real person.
Not only will trainees miss out on learning to detect subtle movements, they will also have a harder time relating to the character as they would towards a human – or at least something that looks like one. The Uncanny Valley effect theorizes that people can be repulsed by something that looks vaguely human, but not quite (Mori, 2012).
Fidelity is a term commonly used for military and law enforcement training. Did you know there are two vital types?
Physical fidelity relates to having a realistic setting. This includes being able to see from more than just one angle (such as by using a multi-screen system), and using the same tools that are utilized in the field. This can include the same CEW device, duty weapon, flashlight, etc.
Psychological fidelity is when trainees engage in the same mental processes as they do in the field. This is where realistic visuals come in, as an environment that looks “fake” may not appropriately represent the setting. Cadets may not take unrealistic training seriously.
Both types of fidelity should be present to maximize training efforts. Warfighters and law enforcement must find their training environment ‘believable’ in order to get the most out of it and stay safer on the streets.
Work must be done to perfect newer technologies before those who protect our communities rely on it. It is vital to choose training that makes the trainee’s heart rate increase and adrenaline pumping. With these parameters, skill transfer is possible.
Contact a specialist to learn about the V-300 4K and how it can prepare trainees for the field by providing lifelike experiences in a safe environment.
Singleton, M. (2022, July 31). Flashback Friday – Practice Makes Perfect: The History of Simulation. Retrieved from Virginia Nursing EDU: https://www.nursing.virginia.edu/news/flashback-history-of-simulation/
Mori, M. (2012). Translated by MacDorman, K. F.; Kageki, Norri. “The uncanny valley”. IEEE Robotics and Automation. 19 (2): 98–100. doi:10.1109/MRA.2012.2192811
Every once in a while, you hear about an encounter with a civilian that proved to be a close call. Whether it’s from a news story or a fellow officer, it’s nerve-wracking to think it could happen to you. Even some of VirTra’s training scenarios that recruits might think will never happen, very well could happen.
A recent example of this occurred in Oakland, California. An officer from Oakland Police Department was able to get out of a terrifying situation that may have turned deadly. Crediting the great response of his backup and the solid training he had received, he was unharmed.
Though a knife or gun are the typical weapon of choice, some subjects are more creative, such as the male the Oakland PD officer encountered. The object appeared at first as a long stick from afar, but as they made contact, the officer could see that it was a sheathed sword.
The Oakland officer recalled the following details about this encounter:
“I asked him to put the sword down on the hood of a nearby vehicle. The male complied and I called officers that were on duty and told him to send me cover units for a man armed with a sword. I continued to stall the male while waiting for cover units. The male continued to put his hands in his pocket and continued to move closer to the sword. I continued to tell the male to keep his hands out of his pocket and to back away from the sword. The male would comply but would continue the same behavior. I continued to update on the phone with the officer of the situation while waiting for the cover units. The male continued to move towards the sword. I then grabbed the sword from the hood of the car to prevent him from reaching it.”
The officer’s backup arrived shortly after and were able to take the man into custody with no further issues.
Oakland PD’s Training Academy has been using their V-300® since 2020. Training in the simulator and going through various de-escalations has helped the responding officer make safe decisions quickly. He found that the many scenarios that allow de-escalation and “talking through” situations were of assistance. This was especially the case when he had to delay the agitated male while waiting for backup.
“I believe VirTra is a great training tool and helps prepare officers in dealing with similar situations using practical and realistic scenarios” said the Oakland PD officer. “It allows you to go through scenarios and debrief what went right and what you could possibly do differently. He also mentioned that using VirTra as a training method is fun and keeps officers engaged.
When asked how he believes other officers should utilize VirTra scenarios, he answered simply. “Take the training seriously.” Instead of gaming the system or running through scenarios as if they were just a ‘check-the-box’ training event, go through them as if they were really happening, he suggested.
VirTra’s scenarios are filmed in video – not unrealistic CGI – for exactly this reason. Content developers and subject matter experts believe in the power of high-fidelity scenarios to create lifelike events. Every situation is different; some requiring force, others requiring verbal communication. In the story told by the Oakland PD officer, he was able to resolve a terrifying situation by simply communicating.
“I think the most important thing in these situations is to remain calm and rely on your training and the help of your fellow officers,” he said in conclusion after recounting the event.
*Special thanks to Oakland PD and the Oakland Training Academy for sharing their success story.
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.
The 5-screen, 300-degree V-300® was recently used in a study to determine the perceived effectiveness of simulation training for law enforcement. The way officers perceive the effectiveness of a style of training can affect how they perform – and by using the V-300, the study aimed to identify how officers perceive the “transferability of the training to the field” and how it compares to other types of training (p. 4).
The research article is titled “The association between participant characteristics and perceptions of the effectiveness of law enforcement tactical simulation training.” The study was written by members of the Lockwood Department of Criminal Justice as well as Monmouth University. It examined the perception of simulator training by 417 participating police officers and noted predictors of these perceptions.
As mentioned above, trainees who find a type of training valuable have a much higher chance of applying what they learned into real-world settings. The study found that “the vast majority of participants” believe the V-300 simulator training to be effective and transferrable (p. 9).
Additionally, the study provided numerous insights into simulation training. Researchers analyzed how various types of officers view and accept different training styles. Since the study included a variety of ages, races, education levels and ranks, the study was able to establish connections. Here are some interesting finds from the ‘Results’ and ‘Discussion’ sections (pp. 7-9):
• 90.1% of participating officers and recruits reported that the training provided ‘above average’ training in preparation for encounters with civilians.
• Participants employed by a municipal police department particularly believed the simulator to be effective, more so than other agency types.
• Older officers were less likely to believe simulator training is effective.
• More educated participants (bachelor’s degree or higher) were more likely to perceive the training as effective.
John Comiskey, Brian Lockwood, Shannon Cunningham & Julia Arminio (2021) The association between participant characteristics and perceptions of the effectiveness of law enforcement tactical simulator training, Police Practice and Research, 22:6, 1655-1667, DOI: 10.1080/15614263.2021.1948848
“Keep your head on a swivel!” It is a phrase drilled into every trainee, every officer consistently by all instructors. There is no wonder why; knowing your surroundings at all times is critical, as it allows you to pinpoint threats, alternate routes, people in danger and more. But for this action to become second-nature, it must be practiced constantly, starting in the academy and continuing throughout one’s policing career.
The good news is that most training events can teach officers to keep their heads on a swivel. For example, VirTra’s V-180® and V-300® immersive training simulators are designed to do just that.
The V-180 is a three-screen, 180-degree simulator which officers step up to. By surrounding the officer in VirTra’s seamless high-resolution video, officers feel like they are standing in the shown environment—not the classroom. As the scenario progresses, people and actions will occur on all three screens, teaching trainees to look around the alley, home, or other shown environment to fully understand the situation. To further training and reduce repetition, instructors have the ability to alter branches in the event, thus creating new events on different screens.
While the V-180 is a powerful training tool, the V-300 is the best law enforcement training simulator on the market. Instead of 3 screens, the V-300 boasts 5 screens, which surrounds officers in 300-degrees of real-life action. This training simulator takes the lesson “keep your head on a swivel” to the next level by requiring officers to move around the simulator to get all angles on the situation.
A bigger training simulator allows more officers to train simultaneously, such as a unit, learning to cover one another. Having more screens also allows the scenario to feature events on more screens, which is shown in the VirTra scenario below. Watch as these officers engage in an Active Threat / Active Killer situation, which forces them to move around the simulator to pinpoint and stop all threats.
Teaching your officers to keep their heads on a swivel is a critical tool that may save their lives—and the lives of civilians and suspects alike—in the field. To learn more about how VirTra can aid in this skill, or try it for yourself at an upcoming trade show, talk to a VirTra specialist.
When coming out of a training event that is meant to depict a real-life crisis situation, law enforcement officers should not feel relaxed as if it was a walk in the park. Truly realistic training will get your heart rate up as you go through stressful scenarios with unexpected outcomes – similar to what happens in real life when law enforcement officers enter an unpredictable crisis.
The point is that training needs to be taken seriously, not treated like a video game. With realistic on-screen characters, accurate marksmanship and true-to-life training points, cadets realize that it is serious training. This is why VirTra’s video-based scenarios are filmed in 4K with real people instead of computer-generated images (CGI). CGI that is commonly seen in older simulator programs and virtual reality headsets depict characters that don’t show the same subtle nuances and facial expressions as real people. While the latest movies have shown that CGI has come a very long way, it is not there yet in terms of being an effective method of training.
Lowell Police Department in Massachusetts have recently begun the use of an immersive VirTra V-300® five-screen simulator thanks to the help of grant money. An article in the Lowell Sun discussed Lowell PD’s use of the new technology, how it helps officers and why it is an important method of training. Police Superintendent Kelly Richardson let reporters know how trainees react when placed in the simulator and how it has caused stress responses.
“It’s so real, they’re sweating, the whole nine yards and afterwards they say after something like ‘this is exhausting.’ They actually check their heart rates when they’re done,” Richardson said. The article noted that during an active threat scenario, officers at Lowell PD have shown reactions indicating an adrenaline response.
Another law enforcement member of Lowell PD, Officer Ramos, thought the simulator would be more like a video game. Ramos was surprised to see that the “scenarios resemble the calls he has been dispatched to over his 16 years as an officer” according to the same article.
To learn more about how VirTra can help your agency take training seriously while obtaining necessary skills, contact a product specialist.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has labeled and identified 277 incidents of an “active shooter” between 2000 and 2018. These terrible incidents resulted in 2,430 casualties—884 people killed and 1,546 wounded—not counting the shooters.
Unfortunately, this number continues to rise. The year 2018 held 27 incidents, 213 casualties, 2 law enforcement personnel killed and 6 law enforcement officers wounded.
But in 2019, the numbers rose to 28 incidents, 247 casualties, 2 law enforcement personnel killed and 15 law enforcement personnel wounded. In addition, the number of incidents meeting the “mass killing” definition rose, as did the number of shooters wearing body armor and the total number of shooters.
Switching gears from incidents of an active shooter to mass shooting incidents, the number has also sharply increased over the years. The infographic below uses information from the Gun Violence Archive, which defines mass shootings as “a minimum of four victims shot (either fatally or not) excluding any shooter killed or injured in the attack.”
In just the past six years, the number of identified mass shooting incidents has almost doubled. And despite the pandemic, lockdowns and increased personal security, 2020 has been the highest number of mass shooting incidents.
What this means to departments everywhere: active shooter events are on the rise, so must also be officer training and preparedness. Though eliminating the number of active shooter events is the ultimate goal, officers everywhere must also be heavily trained on this topic, should it happen in their community.
Over the course of the last few years, departments everywhere have begun implementing a wide variety of techniques designed to prepare officers for active shooter situations. While many of these training solutions are beneficial, VirTra would like to introduce the most immersive, skill-transferring and certified active shooter training solution.
The V-300® is a highly realistic, 5-screen simulator that immerses the officer in the chosen scenario. A combination of high-resolution visuals and surround sound help increase the physical and psychological fidelity of the situation, making an officer’s responses similar to the same incident in the field. Instructors can select from one of the many active shooter scenarios, allowing officers to practice and transfer skills learned in the classroom to the simulator—then ultimately to the field.
For example, watch this video as officers enter a real VirTra Active Threat/Active Killer scenario from its latest release of V-VICTA curriculum and immediately take necessary steps to mitigate: view here.
By combining stress inoculation, rapid decision-making and tactical firearms training, officers receive a higher quality training that cannot be replicated by other training simulator “solutions”, lectures or even role-playing. In the case of Active Threat/Active Killers, VirTra also offers certified curriculum to supplement classroom learning before officers step into the simulator.
V-VICTA™ curriculum—Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy—comes free with all law enforcement simulators. Each curriculum is developed exclusively with nationally-recognized partners, maximizes training time and is nationally-certified.
As such, the Active Threat/Active Killer curriculum was critically reviewed by members of IADLEST and passed the rigors of their independent review process. This presents instructors with training hours and pre-packaged classroom curriculum and corresponding simulator scenarios to teach, train, test and sustain all officers.
Prepare your officers to the best of your abilities. For more information on integrating Active Threat/Active Shooter (ATAK) curriculum in your department, contact a VirTra specialist.
Police academies and departments across the nation utilize a wide variety of methods and strategies to train new law enforcement officers. This can consist of roleplaying, lectures, trips to the range and so forth.
While each form of training has its benefits, they all fall short when utilized alone or siloed. This is because many training methods cannot account for the unpredictability officers will experience in the field, nor do they realistically immerse the trainees in the given scenario. This is why VirTra’s immersive simulators, such as the VirTra 300-degree judgmental use of force law enforcement simulator, provides a far more effective training.
The immerse quality is more than the physical immersion, though the V-300’s five screens do physically immerse trainees and officers, once they step into the simulator. Rather, immersion is taken to the next level with surround sound audio and integrated and interactive characters on each screen. In addition to this are the accessories: the Threat-Fire® provides real-life consequences and stress inoculation while VirTra’s recoil kits and CO2 magazines allow officers to utilize their personal firearms within the simulator. Instructors can take advantage of these immersive qualities to train officers in a variety of real-life situations from a safe, controlled and realistic environment.
Law enforcement officials must work with unprecedented levels of environmental and situational unpredictability. After all, it’s a part of the job. While it is possible to account for some of the variables an officer might face, it is impossible to account for every variable in every situation, every day.
While lectures are important—after all, discussing the correct order of events provides direction and understanding—it cannot be the only form of training. Instructors can take training to the next level with roleplaying, though going through a scripted situation can only provide so much additional training. Simply put, there are no traditional teaching methods that can best prepare officers for the modern uncertainty they could face at any moment.
Even though there is a time and place for lecture-based and scenario-based training, trainees must train with immersive simulators to gain the best possible experience with ever changing outcomes in the moment based on the actions and reactions of the students. VirTra combines state-of-the-art technologies, certified curriculum and professional research to create a highly realistic training environment that increases and transfers skills to the field.
Instead of being told how to work through scenarios, trainees are placed in the middle of any given situation. The scenario begins with a voiceover of the police call from dispatch, then opening on the scene. After, trainees must engage with the subject(s) and make decisions to discover the best possible outcome. Each VirTra judgmental scenario is equipped with extensive branching options, allowing the instructor to choose the path of the scenario, based on the trainee’s decisions and actions inside the simulator. Training after this manner allows officers to engage in the same scenario multiple times, but receive a different ending each time, based on mistakes or proper choices made.
At the end of the day, immersive scenario-based training establishes critical thinking and potentially life-saving skills that lectures. By surrounding trainees visually and auditorily, officers treat the training more seriously and find themselves engrossed in the situation.
Though VirTra’s simulators cannot completely replace other forms of training—such as live fire—it complements these skills and provides a foundation for an officer to build off of.
One of the most beneficial parts of the VirTra simulators is the debrief ability. After the scenario ends, instructors and trainees can replay the scenario and see what the trainee did correctly or mistakes that could have been avoided. The real-time play back, Picture-in-Picture playback videos and after-action provides extra training elaboration. No traditional method of training provides this debriefing opportunity or is as effective at helping officers understand the consequences of their actions.
VirTra’s immersive judgmental use of force simulator is a critical component of any department’s training program. Help your officers learn, build and maintain skills in the most realistic way possible with this immersive technology. To learn more, contact a VirTra specialist.
If you are an instructor, how would you create a scenario filled with the most stimuli? For example, consider a home environment where there is a couple fighting, in addition to other objects vying for attention: a phone ringing in the background, a pot of boiling water on the stove, a child crying in the next room over, and so forth.
Depending on how well trained a trainee is, a loud, complicated environment such as this can be incredibly beneficial or do more damage than good.
For trainees with more experience and understanding, training in this manner is an excellent way to prepare them for the field. However, for newer trainees who have never practiced the learned skill or are still new to the concept, the extra stimuli is too much.
A general rule of thumb is the more a trainee practices a given skill, the more stimuli and commands can be added to the training environment. One must learn to crawl, then walk, before running.
Training time must be completely dedicated to training—focusing on understanding, implementing and acting on the taught skill or principle. Having too much unnecessary stimuli in the training environment can take away an individual’s ability and mental capacity to function. While this successfully tests older trainee’s abilities to perform, for newer trainees, this can create a training scar.
In creating the proper environment, instructors need to keep in mind that stimuli can be auditory, visual, physical or olfactory. Even though different stimuli trigger different responses, each can command one’s attention and should be balanced.
Consider this example: if you are driving to a new address, you may turn down the music to concentrate on finding your destination. Even though driving is a visual and physical skill, the auditory component is taking too much attention away. Yet, with time and practice, once you know how to reach that location, turning down the auditory component no longer becomes an issue.
While the example is simple, the same principle applies to police training. When a trainee engages in a new skill, the first few times should be in a location devoid of extra stimulus, thus freeing their working memory and increasing their ability to concentrate. After these skills are understood and practiced, only then is it time to test the trainee in a realistic, over-stimulated environment.
VirTra’s V-300® is the best simulated environment to practice in this manner. Its five screens and 300-degrees successfully immerse trainees in the chosen scenario, with stimuli coming in from all sides. The high-quality graphics, professional actors and extensive realistic branching options aid in creating the most realistic environment for skill transfer.
Training this way immerses trainees in various auditory and visual stimuli as they concentrate on completing the scenario. However, this does not apply strictly to academies—departments can also benefit by this form of training. Police officers can brush up on perishable, critical or new skills in an environment that mimics situations they may come across in the field.
Instructors can utilize a multi-screen simulator to practice scenarios with the most realistic environments. Teach trainees critical skills that transfer to the field with VirTra. Learn how your academy or department can implement this technology by contacting a VirTra specialist.
VirTra offers an array of excellent training simulators and corresponding tools for departments to effectively train their agents. Among our most popular is the VirTra V-300®, the highest standard for law enforcement training. Its five screens provide a 300-degree view of a scenario, creating a fully immersive, realistic training experience. Besides this amenity, what makes this firearms simulation so crucial?
One of the most beneficial aspects of this training simulation is its near-complete view of any given scenario. VirTra’s V-300® places trainees directly in the heart of the action with surrounding video, multi-directional audio and high-quality visuals. With officers able to turn around and see each side of the scenario, they better understand the situation and circumstances and can make better decisions accordingly.
Real-world situations do not occur on a single, flat screen like a movie and neither should your realistic training simulation. The extended view of the VirTra V-300® scenario’s live actors, animals and special effects surrounds trainees, making the judgmental use of force training completely immersive. Intense scenarios and extended branching options causes trainees to learn stress inoculation and decision-making under pressure.
After the scenario is complete, VirTra’s V-300® offers the final component of police training: debrief. Instructors and trainees can playback and analyze decisions made in the simulation and the consequences that ensued. Trainees can use this time to learn from their mistakes, while instructors look for areas where training needs to be changed or strengthened.
Since training mistakes are a fact of life, it is best to make them in a safe, controlled environment. Experienced officers can also use the firearms scenarios to test decisions, de-escalation or use of less-lethal and lethal weapons without fear of hurting someone or experiencing permanent consequences. After the scenario is complete, through debrief, participants can see, learn from and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
All training is crucial to successful law enforcement—from lectures to role playing to training videos—but training simulators are more effective. Presentations are excellent for providing information and explaining protocols, but there is no match for hands-on experience when practicing this protocol.
Whether the training exercise is designed for law enforcement or military, training with simulations provides a more permanent learning. Departments and agencies can rest assured knowing their team understands the best practices and can effectively perform in a high-stress situation.
Thorough training is crucial—for your team and for the public—and departments must take every precaution necessary to ensure their agents know how to best navigate difficult situations. There is no better way to train than with real-world experience, brought by the V-300®. Don’t wait until there is an emergency. Train your police officers to the highest degree with the help of VirTra. Contact us today.
For more information, download our FREE e-book!