Protecting your health on the job as a police officer is important as it’s a career with a lot of human interaction. When you work with others, there is always an opportunity to catch a “bug” or other virus. There are also risks of more serious diseases if care is not taken when risks are apparent.
HIV, Hepatitis A, B, and C, and tuberculosis can be transmitted through a variety of different ways – such as air particles and contact with blood/saliva. If you have a weaker immune system, even a cold or flu that would normally be a minor hassle could become more severe.
Being aware of risk factors and preventing the spread of infectious diseases can help keep you and those you work with safer. It is vital to be cautious when dealing with an individual who may possess needles, has a persistent cough, or is spitting or otherwise ejecting bodily fluids.
Infectious diseases are illnesses that are caused by either bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites and can spread in various police scenarios. Depending on the organism transmitted, an infected person can experience varying symptoms. These can resolve on their own with rest, but other serious cases may require treatment or even hospitalization.
Bacteria, though the word has a negative connotation at times, are not always bad. Some cause no effect to humans. Some live in the gut to help us digest food. Examples of infections caused by bad bacteria include strep throat, tuberculosis, MRSA, and food poisoning.
Viruses require a host (people, animals, plants) in order to grow and survive. Some common viral infections include the common cold and COVID-19. Certain ailments such as pneumonia and meningitis can be caused by either a virus or bacteria.
Fungi can cause skin diseases such as ringworm and athlete’s foot, as well as infect your lungs or nervous system.
Parasites are microscopic living organisms that require a host to survive. Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted by mosquito bites. Some parasites can be transmitted from animal feces.
There are two basic ways diseases are passed to humans – either direct or indirect contact.
Direct contact can be person to person. If an infected person coughs or sneezes on you, you have a chance of obtaining the same infection. Another possibility is animal to person, which occurs when an infected animal scratches or bites a human. Handling animal waste can cause infection as well.
Indirect contact can occur in a few different ways. Germs can linger on objects like doorknobs or tables, and if someone touches an infected item and then their face, the germs can be transferred. Insect bites are another example of transmission through indirect contact. Infection can also be spread through contaminated food and water, such as E. coli.
As we remember from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are various types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that can lower the risk of transmission. Some may even prevent infection entirely. It is also important to remember the basics like washing your hands thoroughly.
Here are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of disease:
To protect your health on the job as a police officer, always remember to get the necessary tests if you believe you were exposed to someone with a viral infection. If you were accidentally stuck with a foreign needle, getting tested is even more of a priority and should not be put off.
An upcoming course titled “Infectious Diseases” will soon be available to current law enforcement clients. This 4-hour course falls under the V-VICTA® curriculum umbrella and includes an instructor manual, testing materials, a class roster, and more.
Three new police scenarios are introduced with this course. They include situations where the responding officer needs to exercise caution around a possibly infected individual, as well as someone refusing to wear a mask when a business requires one.
Emotionally disturbed person(s) – or EDP – is a broad and vague term often used to describe someone with a mental illness experiencing some sort of crisis. This includes erratic behavior that can be harmful to oneself or others.
The most recent data from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. Some mental illnesses can be so mild they are nearly undetectable. Others are severe and debilitating with symptoms that limit activities in life.
Because of the high number of individuals that law enforcement officers interact with every day, they are bound to encounter someone with a mental illness. For this reason, VirTra’s law enforcement simulation training for mental illness and EDP encounters has many scenarios that allow police to practice these scenarios. It also will help them recognize when someone is experiencing a crisis or is suffering from a mental illness.
In this scenario, the responding officer in the simulator is dispatched to a hiking trail in the mountains. A man is sitting on the edge of the mountain, clearly upset. As the user will find out, the man is suffering from depression. The goal in this law enforcement simulation training for mental illness and EDP encounter is to calm him down and get him away from the side of the trail.
“Misery Mountain” is entirely dialogue-based and there are no force options available. The goal is to speak to the man in a way that calms him down and ensures he is being listened to.
Some situations may look unusual, but if nothing illegal is happening and there is no disturbance, it can be best to let the situation go. In “Government Spy Games,” the user is playing the role of an officer dispatched to a welfare check. You learn in advance in this law enforcement simulation training for mental illness and EDP encounter that the individual is mentally ill, and that their family has not heard from them in a while.
When you enter and see a man whose home is covered in aluminum foil, it is certainly a strange sight. The man is very paranoid, but upon questioning and seeing that he is alright, there is no reason to press further. This scenario is a dialogue-based one where no force is needed.
When interacting with a person in crisis, it is important to choose the right words and tone of voice. In the scenario “Office Anxiety,” the officer in the simulator must calm an office worker who is holding a pair of scissors. She has scars on her arms from previous cutting, and is causing her colleagues to worry for everyone’s safety. The woman can be de-escalated depending on what the user says, or they could become more irate, leading to an encounter with a higher level of force.
Due to how common interactions with mentally ill subjects are, VirTra created a 15-hour course to assist law enforcement clients. Mental illness comes in all forms, so VirTra’s “Mental Illness: A Practical Approach” curriculum covers 9 different types:
Each module of this course includes slide presentations, class evaluation forms, tests, and the associated scenarios to run through. After engaging in classroom instruction, officers can practice their skills in the simulator.
In the end, our goal in providing these scenarios and courses is to keep officers and their communities safe. Training for mental illness encounters and being able to recognize them can save lives. If you would like to get started with VirTra’s training courses, contact a specialist.
You may have heard the story of Deputy Kyle Dinkheller’s murder during an officer-involved shooting. The event was tragic, but Dinkheller lives on with how his story has helped train recruits and officers alike.
The original dashcam footage gave insight into a few tactics that were not properly used – or in some cases, not used at all. Some of the training points to look at include vehicle contact and approach, utilizing the radio for backup, and force options.
When Dinkheller pulled over Andrew Brannan, he asked him to step out of his vehicle to talk to him. This was what his agency’s training had officers do, however it is generally agreed upon that it is easier to control a person inside a vehicle.
A situation that seems mindless but can have serious consequences is how you approach the vehicle. There are many things to be aware of, such as:
During vehicle approach, staying within the mitigation zone1 and maintaining control of where the subject is positioned can greatly increase safety.
When Dinkheller used his radio to request backup, it caused Brannan to become more agitated. Sometimes negative reactions occur when a call is made within earshot of a subject, so officers should be mindful of when and where they use their radio.
Additionally, if you are engaged in the threat, your priority should be addressing it. Teaching officers to call for backup during a use of force event should be avoided. It can create a training scar with serious effects, such as not addressing the current situation, but relying on other units that may not arrive immediately.
During the time of Dinkheller’s murder, ECW devices were not widely used. Dinkheller used a collapsible baton to get Brannan to stop his actions, but it was not used with full force. The hit combined with the fact that Brannan had a contaminated mindset made it so the strike had no effect. When a subject is mentally ill or under the influence of a substance, they do not always respond to pain compliance techniques.
Another less-lethal option would be going hands-on. If a subject is not listening to the commands given, an officer may start by grabbing the subject and trying to restrain them. Dinkheller, unfortunately, did not attempt to go hands-on although he could have based on Brannan’s actions.
Finally, there is the lethal option which could have been utilized at a certain point into the encounter. Dinkheller had a rifle available to him in the trunk of his squad car – a storage position that was normal for his agency at that time. Long guns should ideally be kept in the driver area of the squad for easier and faster access.
The newest curriculum by VirTra – “My Story: Dinkheller” – gives officers of all experience levels a chance to learn from this past event. Instructors have access to training materials such as an instructor manual, slide presentation, testing material, and more. It can easily be taught to students right out of the box and is free for VirTra customers.
Along with the coursework is a brand-new scenario that puts you in a similar situation to what Dinkheller went through. You are on a rural road on a traffic stop with a mentally ill subject. What will you do in that position? Will you use de-escalation and be able to verbally calm the man, or possibly use a less lethal device? There are 80+ branching options depending on the user’s actions or the instructor’s choice.
See the video below for a glimpse at what this scenario is like. If you would like more information on this course, visit this page here.
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 advanced hardware are not the only aspects that aid in training law enforcement. Most important 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, we also partner with industry experts to ensure the quality of content. Before becoming available to customers, every course is submitted to IADLEST for NCP certification. IADLEST rigorously reviews every course to ensure it meets standards before it ever meets customer systems.
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.
In 1998, Deputy Kyle Dinkheller was fatally shot during a traffic stop. The aftermath left his family and colleagues heartbroken, but his death was not in vain. The incident brought on a deeper look into police training, agency culture, and much more. In this way, Deputy Dinkheller has saved lives even after his passing.
One of the first officer involved critical incidents recorded on a dashcam, 22-year-old Dinkheller struggled to control Vietnam combat veteran Andrew Brannan. Eventually Brannan retrieved a gun from his vehicle and ultimately shot and killed Dinkheller. You can watch the full video here.
It is important to keep in mind that officers had different tools in 1998. Almost no officers carried ECW / CEW devices and the use of a baton (like the one Dinkheller used) was more common. Still, there were several lessons to be learned by future officers, making this event more than just an unfortunate story.
The new course “My Story: Kyle Dinkheller” gives officers a different perspective of the incident that has been in so many training videos. The coursework is accompanied by a true-to-life scenario with more than 50 branching options. The traffic stop scenario allows for the officer to use de-escalation, less lethal tools, or lethal force depending on what the situation requires.
To obtain this coursework, you must be a current VirTra customer and on an Annual Service Plan. For more information, visit this webpage.
April is National Autism Awareness Month. Around this time in 2020, VirTra released the “Autism Awareness” course to help law enforcement recognize the signs of autism. This would not have been achieved without the partnership and expertise of SARRC – Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center.
Since the inception of this training program, agencies all around the country have received the coursework and scenarios. Some agencies such as Utah Attorney General’s (UAG) Office have made VirTra’s Autism Awareness training a requirement. So, what has happened with VirTra, SARRC, and the autism community since 2020?
The UAG inspired Utah agencies to adopt the Autism Awareness training program. In fact, Utah Governor Cox signed H.B. 162 (peace officer training amendments) and H.B. 334 (special needs training for law enforcement). These two bills required POST training to include 16 hours of training on autism and mental illnesses. The training programs include the use of classwork, bodycam review, and VirTra’s simulated scenarios to familiarize officers with autism spectrum disorder.
Additionally, the UAG received the Best of State award for their Virtual Reality Training Center and the lessons officers learn from it – including Autism Awareness. Sean Reyes of the UAG even received the First Annual Autism Award in 2021 for the impact they’ve made by teaching officers about autism.
Even in 2020 when the program was barely released to the public, VirTra received positive feedback from Chief Muma of Jerome Police Department in AZ. “I really thought it was well developed,” said Muma during a video interview. “It brought forth something that I don’t think we’ve had in the field… It’s provided something that has been lacking in the industry for a long time.”
A lot has happened since SARRC was formed in 1997. What was once considered a 1 in 500 diagnosis has shifted due to further research. Now, it is reported that 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism. According to SARRC’s recent statistics, here is what they have provided for the autism community and their families just over the past year:
VirTra values our partnership with SARRC not only because of the great assistance they have provided us in releasing our coursework to law enforcement. We also truly believe in their mission and drive to make the world a better place for those with autism spectrum disorder.
The country has made great strides in not only diagnosis, but in educating the public about the signs of autism and how to communicate with someone on the spectrum. People who are communicating with a wide variety of citizens every day – such as police officers – are especially deserving of this type of training.
In the past, there have been unfortunate instances where officers have mistaken autistic behaviors as “suspicious” or even drug-related. With the number of agencies now receiving training and the general public awareness of the disorder, we hope to see the number of these situations decrease significantly.
To learn how to obtain the Autism Awareness course, contact a VirTra specialist.
When an officer lets their emotions get the best of them, they often show signs of it before any drastic actions occur. This is a crucial window where the officer’s partner can intervene before they lose control. If signs are ignored, it could progress and lead to excessive force or another violation of a person’s Constitutional rights.
Does your agency have policies in place for intervention? Are your officers prepared to intervene? If your answer to both of these questions is not a solid and immediate ‘yes,’ then it is time to consider solidifying intervention procedures. By emphasizing the importance of reporting misconduct and establishing a plan when witnessing it, you are protecting both your staff and the community.
VirTra has created V-VICTA® curriculum dedicated to informing agencies about officers’ duty to intervene as well as how to go about it. Simulated scenarios based off real-life events are paired with an easy-to-follow lesson plan and engaging training videos. Aptly titled “Duty to Intervene,” this course has gone through rigorous review to receive NCP certification from IADLEST.
While policies and the way agencies train vary by state, one thing certain is that every officer – regardless of rank or seniority – has the duty to intervene. It is vital to incorporate it into your training program in some way, and there have been creative methods used.
One such example is Utah Attorney General’s Office who hosts training courses dedicated entirely to the duty to intervene. Training Specialist Will Fowlke has blended VirTra into several training topics throughout the years. The latest addition is Duty to Intervene.
Utah Attorney General’s Office hosted a 2-hour training course addressing the duty to intervene and importance of reporting misconduct. The course uses excerpts from VirTra’s Duty to Intervene curriculum and utilizes scenarios on their V-300®.
“The scenarios we use include Crowd Control, Constitutionalist, Tire Tantrum, and VirTra’s new Duty to Intervene Vignettes Series that include five custom made vignettes designed to hone officers’ intervention skills” said Mr. Fowlke when discussing the utilization of scenarios during the course. “We selected these scenarios to address unconstitutional use of force, unconstitutional search and seizure, and biased police practices.” The course allows attending officers to review and analyze body cam footage. Analyzing known protest incidents helps officers learn the right and wrong ways to intervene.
Mr. Fowlke stated that he received positive feedback on the course. Participants noted that being able to review footage and participate in hands-on simulator training was helpful. In the past, Utah Attorney General’s Office has created training for Autism, Active Shooter, and other topics while utilizing VirTra’s scenarios.
If you would like to learn how you can incorporate simulated scenarios into your existing training regime, contact a specialist.
We talk A LOT about training in law enforcement. Academy training, the field training program for new officers, annual training, specialized training…heck, even this training article you’re reading right now! But here is the brutal truth: we don’t train enough. Not even close to what we should be doing.
Want a recent example? In 2022 there was an active shooter incident in Uvalde, Texas. After the incident, there was a lot of talk about how officers responded at the scene. An investigation into the responding officers training found that half of them have never been through active shooter training.
If we all agree that training is so important, then why don’t we do more? Why do officers in the United States fall so far behind their counterparts around the world when it comes to training hours? Money.
A recent study found that 97% of police agencies budgets went toward salary and benefits, leaving 3% for all other expenditures, including training. (Urban Institute, n.d.) In recent years there has been a call for agencies to spend more money on training their officers, but we are still not where we should be.
Now, let’s look at how much time a recruit may spend in an academy for their training. In the U.S., the average length of basic police training is around 800 hours, or 20-22 weeks. (Emily D. Buehler, 2021) I wanted to know how this compared to other jobs that had required training, so I looked a few of them up. To get your barber license: 1500 hours. To be a licensed plumber: 4 years of experience.
Ok, ok, so maybe a barber needs more hours than an officer. Surely, we’re in line with the rest of the world when it comes to officer training. Right? Not. Even. Close.
Canada requires around 1,000 hours. England is between 2,000 and 2,500 hours. 3,500 hours in Australia. And in India, Finland, and Dubai, you’re looking at around 5,000 hours of training to become an officer.
Something doesn’t seem to add up. Why would we want police officers out there without a significant amount of training? Ok, yes, officers need 2 years of secondary schooling as well, but think about how much of those two years really falls into “training” and is useful on the job.
As trainers, we need to speak up and demand that more time and resources are available to properly train officers. Multiple studies show that more training makes it safer for officers and the people they interact with. It also reduces liability on the city, county, or state that the officers work for, since well-trained officers are less likely to be sued.
If you can’t get more money, you can still get more training in. Roll-call training, mid-shift training, and online classes all can be done for little to no cost. Training doesn’t have to come in 4-hour blocks. 15 minutes here and there can really add up. If you want to send officers to training that may have a financial impact, check with your neighboring departments to see if there may be a discount for larger groups.
If you’re interested in simulation training, which can be very cost effective, look for grants that can help fund the purchase of a VirTra simulator. With the IADLEST certified V-VICTA® training curriculum included, your officers can spend less time planning and preparing for classes, and more time doing the training.
Stay safe. Stay dedicated.
Emily D. Buehler, P. D. (2021). State and Local Law Enforcement Training Academies, 2018. U.S. Department of Justice.
Urban Institute. (n.d.). Criminal Justice Expenditures: Police, Corrections, and Courts. Retrieved from Urban.org: https://www.urban.org/policy-centers/cross-center-initiatives/state-and-local- finance-initiative/state-and-local-backgrounders/criminal-justice-police-corrections-courts- expenditures
Courts have been hearing cases about failure to intervene for years – as far back as 1972. All courts have ruled that officers have a duty to intervene when there is a violation of a person’s constitutional rights. This includes during excessive or unnecessary application of force.
There are various reasons people may not intervene when a fellow officer is acting out of conduct. Maybe they don’t know they should, or they freeze up. Sometimes there is a negative culture in the agency that prevents them – consciously or unconsciously – from reporting an incident or stopping the offense.
The why, when, what, and how are all important to know when discussing an officer’s duty to intervene. When training, we look at past examples of what went wrong, then adjust accordingly in order to avoid making the same mistakes. Instructors must also show examples where proper intervention took place in order to see how these applications can work in the real world.
When you fail to intervene, it does not only affect the victim, it affects both legally and morally, plus the entire agency may be subject to distrust from the community. It goes against what is an officer’s code of conduct, as they joined the force to protect the community they serve.
As we have seen over the years with various failure to intervene cases, there is a national (and sometimes international) spotlight when things go wrong. These include notable incidents such as the Rodney King and George Floyd cases. In both, one or more officers allowed an instance of unnecessary or unreasonable amount of force to occur and continue.
The most important reasons why duty to intervene matters:
Despite rules being in place, issues can still happen and it is important to understand why. Your department should place value in those who come forward when something is wrong, but occasionally, there is a “code of silence” or people become worried of repercussions for reporting someone.
Nobody should have to fear retaliation for doing the right thing. Some agency cultures can make officers feel that they cannot report someone who is higher in seniority, or that they will be treated like a “snitch.” These are things that can be discussed with officers of all ranks, ensuring everyone knows that duty to intervene applies to everyone regardless of rank or status.
Lastly, leadership influences the success of policies. If it’s all lip service and things don’t actually change, nothing is accomplished. In fact, not sticking to the policies you create and discuss can lower officers’ trust in their leadership. Supervisors should enforce the policies and create a culture of feeling empowered to step up when seeing something wrong.
Officers should detect the need to intervene early in the event before trouble starts. Signs of anger and use of profanity could indicate that the officer is starting to let their emotions get the best of them. The EPIC model (ethical policing is courageous) suggests using a 10-code that can signal to the other officer that they need to calm down. “Sgt. Smith, 10-12!” or similar can get their attention without alerting others or causing embarrassment.
VirTra has given its law enforcement clients an opportunity to practice their understanding of when to intervene. Certified in early 2023, “Duty to Intervene: No Such Thing as a Professional Bystander” gives users an interactive and engaging way to learn. It combines training videos and multiple immersive scenarios to give officers the experience in a safe learning environment.
Professional intervention is important and is used in other fields besides policing, even in medical and aviation settings. It can save your job, your partner’s job, and the wellbeing of the community you serve. If you would like to get started with VirTra and begin training Duty to Intervene and other important topics, contact a specialist.
EPIC – Ethical Policing Is Courageous. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://epic.nola.gov
Galindez v. City of Hartford (U.S. Dist LEXIS 17592 2003).
Law enforcement comes into contact with a plethora of different types of people daily. Because of this, it is necessary for them to receive as much training as possible on how to respectively interact with each unique individual they might encounter.
Those on the autism spectrum may be mistaken with a different type of case when they come in contact with law enforcement – such as drug use. According to a study done from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, by age 21, one in five young adults with autism had been stopped and questioned by police¹. This a why officers must be trained on how to identify and interact with individuals on the spectrum.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can make communication and social situations difficult for those diagnosed. Individuals may also display behaviors such as hand flapping, rocking back and forth, avoiding eye contact, resistance to direction, and more. But because no two cases are alike, there is no “stereotype” to autistic behavior. This makes it that much more important for officers to be educated on what autistic behavior might look like and how to respond accordingly.
VirTra understands the importance of law enforcement receiving this kind of training. VirTra partnered with the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) to create a curriculum for officers to learn the signs and learn the various ways to respond to a call with someone on the spectrum.
This partnership was our way of ensuring that our curriculum contained accurate information regarding ASD and would effectively support both officers and those diagnosed with ASD.
Officers can receive 2 hours of certified curriculum through the VirTra simulators. There is walkthrough training with SARRC CEO Daniel Openden and additional scenarios for officers to put their new skills to the test. All of the actors in the scenarios actually have autism, giving officers real life examples of autistic behavior on a scene.
VirTra now has two ways for you to access this training! If your agency is looking to purchase a simulator, this curriculum comes along with it (and so many more)!
Not ready to purchase a system quite yet? You can access the course by signing up for Certified Training Alliance , an online learning platform for First Responders!
If you would like to learn more about VirTra’s curriculum and simulators, contact a VirTra specialist.