Imagine you are training in an immersive law enforcement simulator. The screens darken, then light up with a desert scene as the dispatch relays information on the call you are responding to. Pedestrians give you further information about the event, then point you towards a man sitting on a ledge. It becomes clear: this is a suicide call and you need to carefully persuade the man to seek help, not jump. 

This is a difficult situation, but a necessary one to train for, as any officer can be called to prevent suicide. But as important as the training topic is, the method of training is just as important. For officers who train with VirTra’s systems, the scenario will unfold based on the officer’s actions and words, creating real-life training designed to benefit both officers and their communities. Officers can train in the same scenario multiple times, trying new de-escalation tactics or certain phrases, then see how the situation plays out. Does an action cause the man to comply, lash out or jump? Which verbiage best comes into play here? Instructors watch over the trainees and, depending on the officer’s choices, they choose the applicable branch in the situation and thus create a new ending. 

Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy 

The simulator itself is an incredible training tool, but what about combining the classroom and the simulator? VirTra created the V-VICTA® program, which is a series of nationally-certified curriculum that is first taught in the classroom then practiced in the simulator. This all-in-one training solution instills proper training and knowledge transfer, thus helping officers remember their training in the field and utilize it to help those around them. 

For example, one V-VICTA curriculum is “Autism Awareness.” This material teaches officers how to identify possible autistic behaviors and the best ways to interact with the subject. Officers who aren’t taught how to recognize and react accordingly to these behaviors could put the subject or themselves at risk. And, according to data from the CDC, 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with autism, making it extremely likely that every field officer will interact with someone on the spectrum. To improve safety for officers and every member of their community, they must first know how to best interact with every member of the community.  

Officer training is complex, but it is always centered around safety—for subjects, bystanders, partners and oneself. To learn more about VirTra’s V-VICTA training curriculum, or to try a training simulator at an upcoming trade show, contact a VirTra specialist.

How do you transition your officers from traditional iron sights to a pistol-mounted red dot optic? There are plenty of good training ideas—such as increased practice on the range, lectures on how the optic works, etc.—but one of the best is having your officers engage in an extensive training course.

One such course is VirTra’s nationally-certified course “Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment.” This new curriculum has 21 accompanying training drills and was created in conjunction with Victory First® utilizing Aimpoint® red dot optics. Just as it sounds, this course is designed to help officers successfully transition from the traditional iron sights to a modern pistol-mounted red dot optic.

How it Works

Red Dot is one of VirTra’s V-VICTA® curriculum, and thus, follows the same structure. With this curriculum, instructors receive lecture materials, presentations, handbooks, range drills and more to teach, train, test and sustain their officers on the given material. This starts in the classroom, then leads to extensive red dot optic training either in the simulator or on the range.

Since training a new skill requires extensive practice, the Red Dot Optic course includes 21 detailed drills; everything from how many yards out the target is, time limits, rounds and repetitions, etc. VirTra includes this information so instructors can either practice it on their real-life training simulators, or on the range.

After the Course

Obviously, the point of any course is to familiarize officers with the taught skill—in this case, utilizing the pistol-mounted red dot optic—but VirTra’s courses go a few steps further. After the course is completed, officers should be able to identify advantages and disadvantages of the red dot system, identify the importance of target and threat focus instead of the focus on the front sight, and more.

To continue learning about VirTra’s “Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment” curriculum and how officers benefit from this training, please contact a VirTra specialist.

It is easy to focus on de-escalation, mental illness, or active threat training—after all, each of these topics are often front-and-center in the news and are encouraged by communities everywhere. But what about other training that rounds out both your training regimen and your officers’ skillsets? 

VirTra worked with Victory First®—a training and consulting company—to create the nationally-certified course “Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment.” This was done utilizing Aimpoint® red dot optics. This course is designed to equip officers with the skills to successfully transition from traditional iron sights to a pistol-mounted red dot optic, a valuable tool for officers everywhere. 

Utilizing Red Dot Optic Training

The way VirTra designed this course, instructors can use these materials to either teach officers with little/no experience, or as a sustainment for officers already familiar with the skill. The Red Dot Optic Training curriculum comes with a pre-test, post-test, lecture materials and range drills, allowing instructors to implement and customize training based on their department’s needs.  

For example, officers new to the skill will need the whole package; tests, lecture materials and drills to learn and perfect the skill. However, officers already familiar with these materials may only need to engage in daily drills to keep skills sharp. 

Further customization comes from the drills themselves. This course comes with 21 detailed drills, including: how many yards out the target is, time limits, which targets are used, how many rounds and repetitions the trainee must engage in, and further instructions for the shooter. As such, instructors can use these drills on their VirTra training simulators, or recreate the drills with live fire on the range.  

Course Certification 

As mentioned above, VirTra’s Red Dot Optic Training is nationally-certified. This curriculum received its National Certification Program award through IADLEST, thus providing departments with 4 hours of certified training. The certification process requires thorough reviews and a rigorous independent review process, so departments know they are receiving quality training materials. 

To start implementing this curriculum into your department, and take your training to the next level, contact a VirTra training specialist 

Despite having different names, there can be confusion on the difference between an active threat and a hostage or barricade situation. Understanding the difference is crucial because each situation requires different, unique law enforcement responses.


A hostage is a person held captive against their will until a specific ultimatum is met. The hostage is usually held by force—sometimes with the threat of a deadly weapon, such as with a gun to their head or knife to their neck—but occasionally hostages are held by verbal threats. The subject expects some kind of demand to be met in exchange for not harming the person they are holding hostage.

When faced with a hostage situation, law enforcement must reason or negotiate with the hostage taker and attempt to get them to peacefully surrender without harming the person/people they are holding hostage. As each situation is different, these complicated events require flexibility and preparation for many different routes the encounter may take.


In a barricade situation, an individual confines themselves to specific area that does not allow others to enter, then refuses to leave the area despite commands. A barricaded subject poses a danger to others, but unlike an active threat event, they are in a relatively fixed position and not roaming where a stream of potential victims may be.

Barricade incidents can be dangerous as many subjects have deadly weapons. At times, they threaten their own lives or the lives of others from their position. Barricades can go on for hours, as seen in this incident in Georgetown, KY. Sometimes others are within the barricaded area with the subject, despite not being held hostage.


A hostage barricade situation is a combination of the two incidents above; the subject is confined to an area and unwilling to leave while also holding a person against their will in exchange for an ultimatum. Hostage/barricade is often confused with an active threat, especially when shots are fired.

An example of a hostage/barricade would be when a bank robber is interrupted by police, then holds a customer or teller against their will to try and wrestle control away from law enforcement. In unfortunate circumstances, these situations may evolve into a murder/suicide where the subject kills the hostage(s) and then themselves.

Active Threat

There are characteristics of an active threat/active killer event that distinguish it from any of the aforementioned situations. Some of these include:

  • An ongoing supply of potential victims
  • A detailed plan for the attack
  • Location is chosen for tactical or personal reasons
  • Traditional “contain and negotiate” police tactics are not appropriate to use
  • The goal for the killer is to kill as many people as possible in a short time

Active Threat / Active Killer Coursework

Module 1 of VirTra’s ATAK curriculum delves into not just preparation and practice for dealing with active threats, but helps law enforcement trainees distinguish between active threats and other situations. The 3-hour V-VICTA™ course offers testing and simulator practice on correctly identifying the threat, and then in turn, handling it in the proper way.

To learn how VirTra’s certified curriculum and immersive training scenarios can help law enforcement handle even the toughest events, contact a product specialist.

As science discovers more about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it becomes clearer how to communicate with autistic individuals. Because of a lack of knowledge of their unique communication needs, there have been unfortunate events in the past involving police officers and the autistic community. To reduce these incidents and ensure trust between the autistic community and law enforcement, steps have been taken to educate officers.

Law enforcement agencies around the United States are beginning to take advantage of various educational resources to understand ASD. One of the methods is through VirTra’s V-VICTA™ curriculum titled “Autism Awareness.” This 2-hour course — a collaboration between VirTra and Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) — includes scenarios and video walkthroughs. The goal is teaching law enforcement officers how to recognize the signs of autism and communicate appropriately.

Success Stories

An example of a successful approach was done by Utah Attorney General’s Office (UAG), who inspired Utah agencies to adopt the Autism Awareness training program. They have recently won the Best of State award for their Virtual Reality Training Center and the lessons officers learn from it – from Autism Awareness to de-escalation and use-of-force tactics. The framed award is pictured below.

Additionally, in September 2021, UAG Sean Reyes was awarded with the First Annual Autism Award for their efforts in making the community a safer place. As its name suggests, it was the first award of its kind and was awarded to UAG due to the impact they have made in educating law enforcement members about autism.

Law Enforcement Autism Curriculum

Some of the tips that officers can learn through VirTra’s Autism Awareness coursework includes recognizing the signs, making sure communication is clear and ensuring the person is comfortable during the encounter. It is no question that law enforcement around the country want to create a good relationship with the public, including those with special needs. Using the coursework’s tests, training manual, presentations and more, the goal is to maintain trust with the community.

To learn more about how VirTra can help law enforcement better understand ASD, contact a product specialist.

It sounds like a simple concept – one officer is a contact officer and another is the cover officer. The truth is, these concepts and principles arose from a number of unfortunate incidents in law enforcement where the contact and cover roles were blurred or even non-existent. Each officer has a role and responsibilities that are vital to safety and must be understood.

A tragic event in 1984 laid the groundwork for contact and cover principles. Officers Timothy Ruopp and Kimberly Tonahill of San Diego PD lost their lives on duty when apprehending two subjects for a misdemeanor charge. While Ruopp was writing the subjects a citation, Tonahill began conducting a Terry Frisk on one subject who overpowered her and shot both officers with a handgun. What went wrong? The contact officer, Tonahill, was not being observed or protected since Ruopp was focused on writing the citations.

Duties and Responsibilities of Contact & Cover Officers

A contact officer must:

  • Communicate, contain and control the subject(s)
  • Search and arrest subject(s)
  • Communicate with the cover officer and dispatch
  • Primarily assigned the use of less-lethal force options

The cover officer must:

  • Protect the contact officer
  • Remain aware of surroundings and third parties
  • Relay intelligence to contact officer
  • Provides lethal cover

It is important to reiterate that role switching is acceptable, but blurring the roles is not. Teamwork is mandatory and effective communication between officers, to subjects and to dispatch is imperative. Officers must monitor and maintain proper positioning and appropriate distancing. At times, subjects may need to be moved to help the cover officer observe.

All of these points and many more are mentioned in the Contact and Cover Concepts V-VICTA™ curriculum. This course is 3 hours of NCP certified material certified by IADLEST. Like other V-VICTA curriculum, Contact and Cover Concepts includes a training manual, associated simulator scenarios, a presentation, testing materials and more.

To learn how to incorporate Contact and Cover Concepts and the vital principles covered within the curriculum, contact a product specialist.

If you have been following VirTra for any amount of time, you may have noticed that we put great emphasis on our content. High-definition video and technologically advanced hardware is not the only aspects that aids in training law enforcement, but it is the training content that ensures effective knowledge transfer. VirTra’s efforts even go beyond intense and realistic scenarios – the VirTra content team of subject matter experts create curriculum for instructors to utilize in a fast, simple way.

This curriculum, known as V-VICTA™ (VirTra – Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy) pairs VirTra’s immersive scenarios with actual NCP certified materials. VirTra customers receive lesson plans, scoring rubrics, presentations, class surveys and more. We know that it is time-consuming and difficult to create your own curriculum and have it certified, so VirTra has done all the legwork for its training partners.

V-VICTA has proven to be effective for Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC). Todd Brophy, the Firearms Range Training Coordinator, has incorporated the curriculum into his force options instruction classes. Brophy allows the CJTC students to learn in a classroom setting first, then coaches them while they practice in one of the 10 units, they use VirTra simulations for in their Firearms Program.

“The feedback we are consistently getting from the students is ‘we need more of this,’” said Brophy, who likes to allow his students to work in pairs for practice in communication skills and contact & cover concepts. “The students seem to enjoy the training and provide feedback of what they are taking away at the end of the session consistent with the learning goals and objectives we have identified for each training segment.”

Brophy’s successful method of using the curriculum combines his existing teaching modalities with V-VICTA’s. V-VICTA can be used in tandem with pre-developed ideas, or just used right out of the box. Some of the certified courses offered include:

Beyond VirTra’s in-house subject matter experts who are retired law enforcement members, we also partner with industry experts to ensure the quality of content. Before becoming available to customers, the curriculum is submitted to IADLEST to undergo a rigorous review to become NCP certified.

To receive V-VICTA and its updated content, you must be a current VirTra customer on an Annual Service Plan. To find out more about how to obtain V-VICTA curriculum, contact a product specialist here.

It pays to be prepared. Since the goal is to increase safety for all, officers need to know how to perform first aid not only on others, but also themselves, should an emergency arise.

To help officers in this endeavor, VirTra created the nationally-certified curricula “Tourniquet Application Under Threat”. Essentially, this course teaches officers how to best apply a tourniquet, depending on injury location. Officers are able to practice this potentially life-saving skill first in the classroom, under a trainer’s instruction, then in the real-life environment of the simulator.

The reason behind two-fold training is simple. Practicing in the classroom makes it easier to understand the basics, whereas practicing in the simulator is a test to see if trainees can perform the same function in a high-stress situation. It is only through constant practice in a high-stress, real-life environment that officers can improve stress inoculation, skill building and moving this information to long-term memory. Long-term memory is what will allow the trainee to quickly access the information when in the field.

Since life in the field is unpredictable, “Tourniquet Application Under Threat” covers a variety of lesson topics. This includes: general tourniquet uses, what to do when direct pressure and elevation cannot be maintained, tourniquet myths, the application process and so much more. To help with training, certain VirTra scenarios have an instructor appear on the screen and guide trainees step-by-step in applying the tourniquet while the scenario is ongoing.

You can get a sneak-peek into the tourniquet curriculum in this video:

To make the best officers, instructors must provide the best training. After all, training quality and an officer’s skillset go hand-in-hand; when one improves, so does the other. Unfortunately, when one diminishes, so does the other. Naturally, instructors want to provide the very best training for their law enforcement officers and watch them succeed in the field.

However, as an instructor, chances are you face difficult decisions that are often outside of your control, yet they greatly affect training. Just a few of these decisions include:
• Mandates—both legal and departmental
• Cost—overtime, equipment (repairs, new orders, etc.), actors
• Time—time spent traveling, but trying to squeeze in training
• Instructors—whether it be shortages or lack of availability
• Facilities—various training locations, such as off-site shooting ranges
• Priorities—who makes the ultimate decisions in each training aspect?

Even though there are many aspects of training outside of your control, it is better to focus on what you can control, and how your officers can benefit. Fortunately, high-end training technology can solve many of the issues listed above, giving instructors the power to fully control training again.

For example, VirTra’s training simulators provide an immersive, controlled environment where instructors can run trainees through critical-skill focused scenarios: de-escalation, judgmental use of force, interaction with mentally ill subjects, etc. Having a simulator reduces the number of instructors needed, the cost of role-players and reducing the number of required facilities to one—solving three major issues in one go.

But it doesn’t stop there. Every VirTra law enforcement simulator is equipped with V-VICTA™—nationally-certified curriculum based off current officer needs. This can meet the need of various mandates, as all curriculum provide certified training hours, in addition to reducing the cost of instructor-created content.

It is also worth noting that modern training technology engages newer officers. These individuals have been surrounded by technology their entire lives and know its value. As a department, embracing technology can invite more officers to becoming instructors.

To learn more, download VirTra Subject Matter Expert TJ Alioto’s 2021 ILEETA presentation.

Access the presentation here.

Earlier this year, VirTra submitted and received certification on the curriculum “Mental Illness: A Practical Approach.” This curriculum covers the signs and symptoms associated with different mental illnesses as well as communication and intervention techniques. Most importantly, officers will learn how respond to the specific behaviors a person displays instead of focusing on the mental illness itself. People should be treated as individuals and not as their diagnosis.

One of the mental illnesses covered in the curriculum is Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects about 1% of the national population. Schizophrenia can interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly, make decisions, manage emotions and relate to others. The severity of unmanaged schizophrenia can be extremely debilitating and disabling.

Depending on the severity of the schizophrenia, an individual may experience hallucinations or delusions. Hallucinations are false perceptions and experiences absent certain stimuli and can manifest as visual, auditory, olfactory or tactile. Delusions are false beliefs that conflict with reality. Hallucinations and delusions are common with schizophrenia, but that does not mean that person has a schizophrenia diagnosis.

A person with schizophrenia may also experience psychosis. Psychosis describes a condition where an individual has lost touch with reality, usually aligned with severe disturbances in behavior, cognitive processing and emotional regulation. The disturbance in perception makes it challenging for an individual to determine what is real and what is not. This can be especially challenging for officers.

Instead of focusing on a diagnosis, officers will learn to respond to the behaviors and clarity in thought process an person exhibits at the time of contact. This allows officers to coordinate an intervention response that is as safe and effective as possible for everyone involved. Each section of VirTra’s “Mental Illness: A Practical Approach” goes further in-depth in recognition of signs and symptoms as well as effective and safe intervention techniques.

For each curriculum, instructors are given slide presentations, booklets, pre- and post-tests, evaluation forms and simulator scenarios. This allows officers to learn the material in the classroom, then implement their new training in a real-life situation displayed in the simulator. Training in this manner ensures officers are well-rounded and skills are easily transferred to the field.

VirTra’s “Mental Illness: A Practical Approach” is part of V-VICTA, is NCP certified and meets rigorous quality training standards for the curriculum. This includes extensive research, citations, correct knowledge retention format, comprehensive testing materials and more.

Nicole Florisi started her public safety career in 1999 as a communication specialist. In 2002, she became a certified peace officer for the state of Arizona. She has been a law enforcement trainer and instructor for the past 15 years. Her areas of expertise are in crisis intervention and de-escalation, crisis negotiations, child abduction response, domestic violence, and human trafficking. She was also a Drug Recognition Expert and Instructor, Standardized Field Sobriety Test Instructor, and forensic phlebotomist. Nicole was the lead negotiator for the regional SWAT team for 12 years.

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