Law enforcement trainers should provide the most realistic use of force simulator training scenarios for their trainees. This requires building a lifelike environment, down to the weapons used and sounds heard. While these aspects allow students to be engaged physically, how will trainees be engaged mentally? Creating the perfect high-fidelity training environment is more than mimicking a setting—it is a balance of recreating both the physical and psychological state of a situation.

Physical Fidelity in Law Enforcement Training

Physical fidelity is the extent to which the conditions of the training program, such as equipment, tasks and surroundings, mirror those in performance situations (Werner & DeSimone, 2012). For example, consider the V-300® training simulator. Creating an environment with physical fidelity is as simple as uploading a scenario, then outfitting trainees with a real belt, gun (with a drop-in laser recoil kit for simulator training), and less lethal. Further realism can be achieved with V-Threat-Fire®, whose electric shock gives trainees pain repercussions.

Adding physical fidelity to training sessions provides immeasurable value to students as they learn how to navigate situations before going into the field. However, perfect physical fidelity in training is expensive to obtain as the costs rise with the realism of the surroundings.

Psychological Fidelity in Law Enforcement Training

As instructors are aware, training requires more than a realistic setting. This is where psychological fidelity comes into play. Known as the mental side of training, psychological fidelity refers to how closely the situation engages students in the same mental processes experienced in the field.

One of the most efficient ways to create a powerful psychological environment is through stress. An officer’s work is demanding and causes stress levels to rise during critical moments. This stress leads to a chemical change with an adrenaline response, which effects a person’s physical and cognitive abilities—namely reasoning, problem solving and effective speech.

By placing law enforcement trainees in situations such as simulated events that successfully mimic stressful psychological fidelity, students quickly learn how stress and other powerful emotions affect them and can inoculate these responses before entering the field.

Instructors can maximize their training by balancing physical and psychological fidelity. Take full advantage of training time and resources by training with our simulators. The corresponding scenarios offer psychological fidelity in emotional and stress-inducing situations, while providing psychological fidelity with realistic weapons and tools. For more information on use of force simulator training, please contact us.

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.