Why Your Agency Should Combine Virtual and Physical Training

Man with long white beard standing up next to a camping tent.

Ron LaPedis

Research conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has revealed that training specifically for de-escalation has resulted in a nearly 30% reduction in use-of-force incidents; an approximate 30% reduction in injuries to community members; and a 40% reduction in law enforcement officer injuries.

With the villainization of law enforcement, training which is proven to lower injuries to community members is positive indeed.  However, even with thorough training, situations can still deteriorate. That’s why it’s essential to go beyond de-escalation and consider various “what if” scenarios, such as dealing with an unarmed or armed confrontational suspect, handling shots fired, managing hostages, or addressing a domestic situation.

Students have the opportunity to employ virtual training for practicing the fundamentals of engaging with a suspect, emphasizing non-confrontational approaches. With modern simulators supporting branching scenarios, the training officer can cause the virtual suspect to react to the student’s commands and body language. And, depending on the student’s actions and what the simulator supports, the suspect can back down and be released; become belligerent, but cooperative; or can go full “Hulk” on the student.

Rather than seeing virtual training as a waste of their time, officers need to look at it as a way to ensure that they and their fellow responders, suspects and victims can all go home to their families.

A virtual simulator can be like a quiz or final exam. Students need to be trained and practice the skills before they can pass a test based on those skills. Some skills cannot be practiced or honed using only a simulator, but require a move back to the physical world.

First Steps

Assuming that your officers took criminal justice training and went to the academy (which may not be the case in some communities), they should be well-versed in the power of arrest; firearms training; and, of course, arrest and control which includes how to safely approach, subdue, cuff, and put the suspect into a vehicle for transport.

In addition to “book learning,” officers need to practice arrest and control techniques using dummies and live opponents. While standing in front of a simulator conversing with a suspect can help with de-escalation skills, an armed and belligerent suspect requires a different set of skills and tools, such as the use of cover or concealment along with the possible use of a baton, TASER®, firearm, OC spray, or more aggressive methods of restraint.

Every one of these skills needs to be practiced until the officer can safely take a suspect into custody without injury to themselves or other parties. It is also important to develop a “spidey sense” to help figure out if there are more suspects waiting in the shadows; if you are about to lose control of the situation; or, even worse, have your firearm taken.

Next Steps

Once an officer can demonstrate competent firearms skills including the use of cover and concealment; the successful use of de-escalation skills; and can take down a belligerent suspect without injury, it is time to put them together into a comprehensive scenario – just like real life.

To be fair, the scenarios should not only be realistic, but they also need to be repeatable. Like using the same firearms exercise repeatedly until a student can qualify, repeating the same unsuccessful scenario until the student is successful helps build confidence before moving on to other scenarios.

The importance of using a good simulator cannot be stressed enough. While a 300 degree wraparound simulator is nice to have, three screen or even single screen simulators will work as long as they offer realistic, repeatable scenarios with sufficient branching to allow the scenario to change based on an officer’s response.

Multiple companies offer simulators with on-screen reaction to modified firearms which can malfunction or force a reload. If the simulator doesn’t support modified firearms based on the sidearm your officers carry, students can build bad muscle memory. A unit which can also simulate flashlights and TASERs is an added plus.

Keep It Up

Interaction with a suspect can move from one stage to another in the blink of an eye. Your officers need to be able to shift gears instantly as any hesitation can lead to losing control of the situation.

For the most realistic training, your students need to be able to switch from the simulator to physical interaction in an instant which implies that training mats, dummies, RedMan suits, CPR and bleeding control dummies, and so on need to be located close to your simulator. Since most simulators can evaluate firearms skills, you might not need your range nearby unless you want to transition to a shoot house for a gunfight or a car for pursuit.

To prevent damage to the simulator, physical activity should be performed well away from it and with the appropriate mats and safety gear. A comprehensive virtual-physical training scenario could include:

  • Students sprinting 200 yards in patrol gear to simulate a chase before entering the simulator.
  • Exiting the simulator to restrain and search a suspect on the ground after they move into a cuffing position, considering the possibility of the suspect resisting arrest.
  • Exiting the simulator to secure and search a suspect on the ground after they have been TASED.
  • Practicing the administration of naloxone in the event of a suspect overdose.
  • Exiting the simulator to practice takedowns with a partner if a simulated suspect attacks the student.
  • Exiting the simulator to let K9 students practice takedowns with their furry partners, preferably outside the building with the “suspect” wearing protective clothing.
  • Practicing safe approaches to a vehicle in relevant scenarios.
  • Training for officer down situations by exiting the simulator and dragging a fellow officer to safety without endangering oneself.
  • Exiting the simulator after shooting a suspect to secure them and provide medical assistance.
  • Concluding an active shooter simulation by exiting the simulator and collaborating with other first responders to assess and provide aid.

Using these suggested scenarios compels trainees to build the muscle memory needed to create a single response chain which will let them transition from encounter, an attempt at de-escalation followed a rapid move from left of bang to right of bang. This just isn’t possible with your simulator and physical training locations separated.


Co-located simulator and physical training equipment lets you combine physical and virtual training into the same session, helping officers make a smoother transition between the different stages of incident response. While scenarios need to be repeatable until an officer responds correctly more than once, don’t be afraid to mix things up afterwards because life on the street never repeats.

Ron LaPedis is an NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer; NRA, USCCA and California DOJ certified instructor; is a uniformed first responder; and frequently writes and speaks on law enforcement, business continuity, cybersecurity, physical security, and public/private partnerships.

Up-and-coming Training Technology Announcements Unveiled at 2023 IACP Conference

Recently at this year’s IACP Conference in San Diego, three well-known companies unveiled a range of innovative virtual training solutions. These companies are recognized for their expertise in delivering essential training systems covering critical incident response, de-escalation techniques, tactical judgment, and firearms proficiency. Included are the following new tech announcements:


MILO Range has introduced MILO VR, a virtual reality solution which immerses trainees in lifelike environments, replicating real-world scenarios to provide invaluable hands-on experience.

This new system has been designed to enhance and improve critical thinking, verbal communication and de-escalation techniques while sharpening decision-making skills. MILO VR seamlessly aligns with mission-specific training objectives, offering a flexible solution which adapts to specific needs.

Current users can integrate MILO VR with their existing MILO Range simulators. This integration empowers the MILO Range system to focus on muscle memory and physical skills training, such as marksmanship and defensive tactics, while MILO VR is utilized for intellectual and knowledge-based exercises like de-escalation and cultural awareness.

Agencies benefit from the flexibility of MILO VR through its customizable scenario creation feature, enabling easy crafting, customization and refinement of training content. This includes the ability to adjust characters and environments according to individual requirements. Similar to MILO Range simulators, MILO VR offers adaptive learning through branching scenarios. Instructors have the capability to escalate or de-escalate situations based on trainees’ responses, ensuring a personalized learning experience for each user.

MILO VR also provides pre- and post-scenario debriefing capabilities utilizing After-Action Review (AAR) tools. Instructors can utilize this comprehensive platform to thoroughly analyze trainee performance, pinpointing specific areas for improvement.

This new system supports a wide range of tools and devices, both lethal and less-lethal, including pistols, rifles, flashlights, batons, and CEW devices, further enhancing its versatility and applicability in various training scenarios. milorange.com

VirTra V-XR®

VirTra, Inc. unveiled its Extended Reality (XR) training system, V-XR, at the recent IACP Conference. The V-XR is not a “shoot-don’t-shoot” marksmanship trainer; this new platform focuses on essential skills such as communication, de-escalation and the recognition of mental health conditions, including autism spectrum disorders. V-XR sets itself apart from other solutions through its flexible modes: Educate, Experience and Engage. Each mode delivers transferable information on multiple topics for comprehensive training. “Educate” provides an enhanced lesson plan with voice, images and videos. “Experience” allows users to participate in a scenario in a virtual V-300® on a curved screen. The final is “Engage” which allows interaction with volumetric video characters.

Unlike traditional virtual reality solutions, V-XR utilizes characters captured using VirTra’s volumetric studio, the V3. With three-dimensional human characters, users can now discern nuanced facial expressions and subtle micro-cues which greatly enhances realism.

VirTra’s new V-XR provides flexibility, adaptability and a small physical footprint it provides agencies of all sizes with a scalable, modular and customizable platform.


Ti Training

Another IACP announcement is the RECON LED, an immersive high-resolution screen display by TiTraining. This newest display architecture features Gullwing configuration technology, a patent-pending innovation which allows the 34.5 foot wide surface to seamlessly transform into a 180 degree immersive environment. The RECON LED maintains precise calibration during any movement, while offering superior visual quality, clarity and definition. Designed for real-world scenario replication, the RECON LED is compatible with CORE, 180 and 300 models. The 11’5″ x 6’6″ individual screens support 4K resolution with a high refresh rate of 3840hz and a brightness of 1500 NITS. Utilizing NovaStar VX600 Video Processors, it boasts a remarkable lifespan of 100,000 hours and provides remarkable definition and clarity in dark or light environments. titraining.com