How can virtual training simulators be more realistic for cops?

Virtual simulators can provide vital training to cops on how to handle a number of different scenarios – here are five ways they could be made more realistic

By Police1 Staff

Virtual simulators can provide vital training to police officers on how to handle a number of different scenarios — such as use of force incidents, traffic accident investigations, and hostage standoffs. As with any training exercise, the more realistic it is, the more beneficial it is.

We asked our Facebook fans to tell us how they think virtual training simulators could be made more realistic. Check out our summary of the most popular answers below and add your own suggestions in the comments.

Bob Walker, of Cole Engineering Services, Inc., displays an AR-15 that will be used by police in a virtual first-person computer training program.
Bob Walker, of Cole Engineering Services, Inc., displays an AR-15 that will be used by police in a virtual first-person computer training program. (AP Image)

1. Cover, concealment, and other physical dimensions

One of the biggest faults in many virtual training simulators, as told by our readers, is a lack of consideration for the many different physical elements of real-life environments — areas of cover chief among them. The implementation of cover and concealment (as props that are physically within the training room) is much-needed in order for cops to get the most out of their simulation exercises. Physical additions to the training environment didn’t end at cover, either. Tim Hahn suggested adding a cruiser door and the front end in order to more realistically practice traffic scenarios. 

2. A more-populated 'world'

Many commenters suggested adding other characters during use of force or de-escalation scenarios. The most common answer (and a reminder of the times we live in) was the addition of protesters or individuals filming officers as they interacted with a suspect. Officers need to be well-prepared for the often chaotic environment that these incidents occur in, which leads us to our next answer…

3. Adding more distractions or 'noise' to the mix

The sensory overload that often comes with a critical incident is something our audience felt could use more consideration in virtual training. Matt Ridener suggested having multiple speakers around the training room. "That way trainees experience the pandemonium of yelling from everyone, everywhere, in a shoot situation," Ridener wrote.

Nathan Skeen suggested implementing sirens into the exercise: "I know some may turn them off, but in the heat of the moment, it may be a second thought (or like my situation, more units were involved.) I was in a pursuit, finally got the vehicle stopped by spikes, jumped out and tried to give verbal commands while that thing was going, but it was impossible."

4. Teamwork

"Comms with dispatch is critical, plus other officers," said Jeff Haines. "The virtual trainer does what one person tells it to do; that is not realistic training." Communication is key when it comes to effective response, and police officers find themselves unrealistically alone when undergoing simulation training. Many of our readers would like to see the presence of dispatch in these scenarios, radio traffic, or another officer also participating in the simulation.

5. Projectiles

A key element to making virtual training simulators feel less like a "video game" and more true-to-life is adding the capability for suspects to fire back at officers through the use of projectiles. Noah Stroshine gave an example: "We had tracking software with a Nerf gun that followed you with a laser, then shot you with the little foam bullet." 

This type of addition both encourages officers to seek cover and adds another layer of physical feedback to the training (which was what officers considered the most important feature of sims in our recent poll). Gary Sinclair said target systems that shoot back "add a little more stress to the training and make you think."

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