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How to achieve skills development through virtual training

As an educational tool, virtual training offers the opportunity for students to develop a variety of skills


With a simulator, an agency can deliver intensive, cost-effective and efficient firearms, force on force and de-escalation training.


Virtual training is a fantastic educational tool that offers students the opportunity to develop a variety of skills. In today’s climate, with its high level of public scrutiny of officers’ actions, officers must be offered the best training available.

With a simulator, an agency can deliver intensive, cost-effective and efficient firearms, force on force and de-escalation training. Using a simulator provides the controller with the opportunity to maintain 100% control of the training. Every element of the scenario can be manipulated, including weather, lighting and suspect compliance, and the controller can add as many hostile subjects as an officer can handle, and then add a few more to further push the officer out of their comfort zone.

Here are four ways to improve officer skills development training through virtual training:

1. Help students maintain focus during sensory overload

When encountering a suspect one on one it is relatively easy to maintain focus. With the high level of control offered by the simulator, the controller can push the intensity level up several notches. When you throw in noisy bystanders, emotional significant others who were previously asking for your help but now do not want the suspect to go to jail, or a vicious dog protecting its owner, you can train officers to become more accustomed to a large amount of information coming at them. This can help limit the chance of them developing sensory overload and enables them to train to maintain focus.

2. Develop a survival mindset

Anyone who has run force on force scenario-based training knows how manpower intensive it is. With role players, controllers, safety check officers, staging areas, props, evaluators, simunitions gun, simunitions ammo and all the other equipment needed, it takes a lot of time and effort to pull this kind of training together.

However, with only a simulator and a controller, you can put an officer through scenarios that offer lower levels of stress, or you can crank up the intensity and push them to the breaking point.

All the training we do as officers has one common goal: train to win. Developing a survival mindset is key. It is vital that every officer knows their limit, but also keeps the end goal in mind: win the fight. Using a simulator puts officers in scenarios they have never been in, making the suspect larger than the officer, introducing threats from concealed locations and ramping up the tempo at the click of a button. All of these factors need to be successfully addressed to build a survival mindset.

One of the most intense simulator scenarios I participated in was a school active shooter scenario. All the lights were off in the room and all I could hear were gunshots and screaming. The scenario continued and I moved toward the threat. All of a sudden, 30+ students come bursting out of a classroom and rushed toward me. Talk about sensory overload. I had to scan every person running toward me while not getting sucked into dangerous tunnel vision and losing focus. The shooter followed the students out a second or two later, fired at me and then ducked behind a door.

One of the most realistic features this specific simulator system offered was the ability to deliver rounds through concealment. Having the ability to do this helps eliminate the training scars that can come from conventional force on force training, where the bad guy only goes down when they are physically hit with sims rounds.

3. Employ verbal skills to de-escalate situations

Using the simulator to assist in training officers in the art of de-escalation is another example of why they are such a useful tool. For some officers, communicating effectively with suspects, or anyone you come into contact with is a skill that needs to be learned, or enhanced, as quickly as possible. Any situation can flip on a dime just by saying the “wrong” word. An experienced controller can use the simulator to help the officer develop the skills needed to communicate effectively.

4. Improve decision-making when an incident escalates

Becoming comfortable being uncomfortable is the key to successful police work. Being introduced to a subject experiencing a mental crisis for the first time throws you out of your comfort zone. Their words and actions may not make sense and you can go from offering help to defending yourself in the blink of an eye. You want to get that person the help they need without escalating the situation or using excessive force. Utilizing a simulator can show you how close is too close and the subtle body movements people make when things are about to change. The simulator can help in improving decision-making if and when an incident escalates.

Pete Goode is a former Royal Marines Commando sniper and helicopter sniper team leader. After becoming an American citizen, he entered into law enforcement and became a firearms instructor, CQB instructor, Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) instructor, SWAT sniper and SWAT Sniper Team Leader. His law enforcement experience includes working patrol, Crimes Against Persons and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC). With over 15 years of instructor experience, Pete is passionate about continuing to learn and develop skills and tactics and passing them on to his fellow operators and officers.