How Simulation Training Helps Officers Hone Crisis Response Skills

Simulation training from VirTra can help officers learn how to effectively communicate with someone experiencing a mental health crisis to delay or avoid use of force. (VirTra)


By Margarita Birnbaum for Police1 BrandFocus

The Los Angeles and San Antonio police departments are among agencies that have partnered with mental health professionals to handle emergency calls that involve people in emotional distress. In doing that, police departments hope to reduce use-of-force incidents.

Nicole M. Florisi, a former police sergeant and current instructor at the Force Science Institute, says departments must offer their officers targeted training to help reduce use-of-force incidents involving people in emotional distress.

Specifically, the veteran SWAT officer and counselor says departments need to educate officers about behaviors associated with mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. That training should include effective communication skills so officers can learn to successfully interact with people in emotional distress.

To get the most informative and realistic experience, Florisi recommends simulation-based training programs, such as those offered by VirTra, because the information and skills officers learn through simulation training involves mental and physical elements, as well as decision-making, and therefore sticks much more than what they learn through classroom lectures and passively watching videos.

“How we train most of the time isn’t really how the brain learns,” said Florisi, a part-time officer with the Jerome Police Department in Arizona. “We need to be in reality-based, scenario-based integrative training that hits all the components to create both psychological arousal and physiological arousal.”

She believes that simulation-based training may help prevent excessive force incidents raging from unnecessary arrests to fatal shootings.

Properly communicating with someone in emotional distress, Florisi says, “can be the difference between life and death. It can also be the difference in keeping your career or not.”


Certainly, most encounters between police officers and people who have a mental illness do not end in use of force, in part because many of those encounters have nothing to do with a person’s mental illness. Data, however, show that officers spend more time dealing with mental disturbance calls than they do on calls involving traffic accidents, burglaries and assaults.

The more information and context officers have about the circumstances that triggered an incident, says Florisi – such as a divorce, change in medication, loss of a loved one or drug use – the more likely that they will be able to keep everyone safe.

“Helping officers identify what type of communication is best in those situations is what’s really critical in dealing with anybody, not just someone who has a mental illness,” said Florisi, who wrote VirTra’s mental illness simulation curriculum.

Officers who go through VirTra’s mental illness training program learn basic information about depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other disorders, including the physiological processes and harmful behaviors associated with them. They also learn the best tone, words and phrases to use to effectively communicate with someone experiencing a mental health crisis due to illness or substance abuse.

Two common mistakes officers make when dealing with a person in crisis, says Florisi, are:

  • Thinking that they can make the person obey them.
  • Thinking t​​hat they can reason with the person.

VirTra’s simulation training drives home that officers need to learn to respond to the individual’s behavior, rather than the emotional trigger.

“What we’re trying to do is reduce the emotion that’s driving the behavior,” Florisi said.


Perhaps one of the most important things officers learn in the simulation training is managing their own emotions that may affect their job performance.

Many officers live with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses and aren’t aware of how deeply they are affected by them or how their illnesses affect their job performance, Florisi says. In addition, many don’t understand how the body’s physiological responses to stress may affect their decision-making process.

“There’s a misconception, from the public but also among police officers, that you’re immune to human psychology and human factors, “Florisi said. “The brain doesn’t work like that.”

It’s important for officers to be watchful of the verbal and nonverbal triggers that may cause them to become aggressive, she says, which can lead to inappropriate use of force and potentially dire consequences.

One of the benefits of simulation training with reality-based scenarios is that officers can identify areas where they need improvement when responding to emotionally charged, high-stakes calls. As instructors shift the way the scenarios unfold to challenge officers during the simulation sessions, they can learn how to identify when they are responding poorly to a situation and use breathing and other techniques to calm down.

“We are tasked with the sanctity of life, and that requires some professional neutrality,” Florisi said. “To achieve our police objective, officers have to be able to successfully navigate their working environment — and part of that is learning to regulate emotion and communicate effectively.”

Visit VirTra for more information on mental illness and de-escalation training.

Eight Discussions Every Agency Should Have About Pistol Qualification and Firearms Training

​Qualification is, first and foremost, a physical skills test. There is no need to fabricate a gunfight environment for a shooting test, but the skills tested must be job-relevant. (Federal Way PD)


Because firearms are inherently dangerous, the need to train law enforcement officers (LEOs) in their safe and proficient use is a self-evident truth.

While opinions differ regarding the type and amount of training and the standards of proficiency necessary for LEOs, it is irrational to argue that such is not essential. LEOs are authorized to carry and deploy firearms in the performance of their duties, and the public has a right to expect each LEO to do so without posing additional risk to the community. LEOs who are not skilled in the safe and proficient use of their firearms present inordinate levels of risk to unintended targets. [1]

Here are eight discussions every agency should have when developing police firearms training and qualification policies and procedures.


Effectively shooting a firearm at a target is a learned skill, like shooting a basketball into a hoop. Learning is the process of gaining knowledge and skill. Learning implies change and it is recognizable as an improvement. The learning process for playing basketball and pistol shooting includes training and practice; [2] and in law enforcement, we distinguish those from qualification.

Training is the process whereby a knowledgeable coach tells, shows and demonstrates effective techniques to practitioners. In basketball, players improve through team training and in one-on-one training sessions with their coaches. As players duplicate the described and modeled behavior, coaches give feedback to help players improve their performance. The same thing happens in law enforcement training, but we often refer to firearms coaches as instructors. When a duly selected instructor teaches or gives feedback – preferably both – that is training.

Learning also comes from experience. Basketball players gain experience participating in organized games. LEOs gain experience dealing with people and situations in the real world. Both gain experience from scrimmaging.

In law enforcement, the best scrimmaging occurs in the form of reality-based training (RBT) scenarios with live role players. RBT is experiential training. Computer-generated scenarios (interacting with screen images instead of live role players), tabletop exercises, mental imagery and action pistol competition (USPSA, IDPA, etc.) are useful types of scrimmaging.

No basketball player or LEO ever develops enough skill in training alone. They must also practice outside of coaching environments. For hours and hours over many years, skilled players practice in their driveways, streets, schoolyards and gyms. They practice by themselves and with friends. Practice is recognizable as an effort to improve without a coach or instructor present.

LEOs receive pistol training in the basic academy and periodically throughout their career. LEO recruits are coached at the basic academy on the fundamentals of shooting. That is training. Recruits are encouraged to increase their grip strength and practice on their own between training sessions. Training and practice are necessary to initially attain the shooting skills required to become certified as an LEO.

Basketball players learn to dribble and pass. Layups are different from jump shots, which are different from free-throws. Players learn techniques for each of these skills. All those and more are required to be an effective basketball player.

Similarly, police recruits learn firearm safety, efficient gun handling and weapon manipulation, how to press the trigger and shoot with accuracy, how to control recoil and shoot with speed. LEOs learn to operate their weapons with one hand only, to shoot from various positions and at different distances, to handle a weapon in low light, in and around vehicles, to hit moving targets, to make shooting decisions, and more. All of these skills are critical for survival.

Whether in shooting, basketball or other physical abilities, skills perish without use. Therefore, basketball players regularly attend mandatory team training. Likewise, incumbent LEOs receive refresher training from their employing agencies; and individual LEOs are expected to practice enough to maintain their shootings skills. We first attain, and then we are expected to maintain pistol proficiency.


Qualification is different. It is not training, and it is not practice. Learning is not the goal, nor is learning expected. Nevertheless, whenever an LEO is intentional about doing their best with a firearm, then the officer is getting meaningful repetitions. In this sense, qualification is practice because the trigger time that is caused by mandatory qualification ensures that every LEO maintains some level of regular live-fire familiarity with their weapon. But qualification is, first and foremost, a physical skills test.

Qualification per se does not attempt to assess the LEO’s judgment, understanding of department policy or propensity to comply with deadly force law. Those are assessed by written tests and by observing performance in training scenarios. Qualification typically refers to a shooting skills test. Whether other assessments are done in conjunction with the shooting test is at the discretion of each law enforcement agency.

Testing initially determines whether a law enforcement recruit has attained the minimum skills established by the basic academy. Subsequently, all incumbent LEOs are periodically tested to verify whether they retain (or regained) the skills established by their employing agency. The verification process is qualification. When an LEO passes the pistol skills test we say they are qualified to carry and use a service pistol.


It is not the weapon that qualifies. Qualification is a human skills test. It is redundant and unnecessary to require an officer to qualify with a department-issued Glock model 17 and a personally owned Glock model 19, or with models 34 and 45, perhaps others. [3] The weapons are the same make, caliber and have identical operating features. Qualifying with one creates a presumption that the person is capable of operating the others.

For traditionalist instructors or old school administrators who do not appreciate this latitude, consider this. If an officer who qualified with and carries a Glock 17 has a breakage during a firefight or runs out of ammo and sees a Glock 19 on the ground, is it acceptable for the officer to pick up and use the G19? Yes, of course. In this situation, the G17-qualified officer should, without hesitation (and without fear of administrative discipline), pick up and use a Beretta 92 in that same situation, even though the Beretta’s operating system is different. This example is admittedly extreme; but so is every deadly assault and every lethal response to it. Acknowledging what is acceptable in the extremity of life or death helps us recognize that some tightly held notions associated with qualification are arbitrary constructs that have little foundation in the real world of deadly conflict.  


A pistol qualification course has some similarities to shooting free-throws in a basketball game. Basketball games are full of dynamic variables as long as the clock is running. However, during a free-throw, the normal dynamics of the game are temporarily paused. For free-throws, the precise distance is known in advance, there is a limited amount of time for the player to prepare for the shot and the number of shots is specified by the referee. In order to put the ball through the hoop, the player must execute the fundamentals of shot accuracy at that distance within the imposed time constraint. [4]

Pure marksmanship can be tested with one shot. Select the size of the target that each officer is expected to reliably hit, select the maximum distance at which each officer is expected to reliably hit that target, establish a time limit to execute that shot, et voila: raw marksmanship can be assessed with one shot. Like a free-throw, one shot is sufficient to test pure marksmanship. But that test is sufficient only as long as we only want to test pure marksmanship.

Free-throws do not attempt to test every aspect of the game, and neither does a qualification course attempt to duplicate every aspect of lethal encounters. Doing so is impossible because variables in deadly situations are endless and the circumstances of each incident are unique. Qual course developers who attempt to test every gunfighting skill find themselves in a never-ending pursuit of the end of a rainbow; and their officers are stuck in a qualification-centric firearms program. Training and practice are better vehicles for pursuing the unattainable level of an invincible gunfighter.

For qualification, each agency defines a set of skills and a means of measuring those skills that will enable it to make the institutional judgment that an individual LEO is (or is not) proficient enough to be allowed to carry and deploy a firearm. Each agency owes this duty to itself, its LEOs, and to the community that the agency exists to protect. A qualification course is the agency’s measure of individual proficiency.

In spite of some similarities, there are also significant differences between sports and law enforcement deadly force incidents. The consequences for a lack of firearm safety, for instance, are worse than missing a foul shot. For LEOs, skills beyond pure marksmanship are necessary for their survival and for community safety. Therefore, a pistol qualification course should assess and verify more than marksmanship.


The list of skills for possible testing is limitless. The time available for training and testing is limited. How many skills and to what extent each should be tested is at the discretion of each agency. [5] Limited time is an important factor because as important as skill verification is for armed, public protectors, testing does not increase skill and increasing skill matters more.

Skill with a service pistol is a required part of an LEO’s job description. Training and practice develop and maintain skills. Because skill-building matters more, our limited resources of time and ammunition are best spent in training, not testing. Simultaneously, verifying individual officer skills is imperative for every agency. Both must be done, and both are mandatory; but training should get our biggest allocation of time, energy and ammunition.

Each agency is accountable to its community for the agency’s standards. An agency’s pistol qualification course sets the skills floor for that agency. Establishing elements of the test requires an experienced cadre of instructors to make choices regarding what to test and at what standard. The rest is covered in training. The testing standard is then ratified or modified by the chief executive or their knowledgeable designee because the chief or sheriff must ultimately answer to the community for each officer’s skill or lack thereof. Plus, it is only with administrative support that instructors and the chain of command are able to enforce qualification standards.

Qualification tests each LEO’s mechanical operation of the weapon. Qualification tests the rudiments of pistol shooting. In order to be well prepared for combat, mechanical operation of the weapon should be so well practiced that it occurs at the autonomic level, which frees up cognitive resources for situational awareness and decision-making in lethal situations. Mechanics and rudiments are taught in the academy; then they are the personal responsibility of every individual LEO.

Fortunately, the mechanics of shooting and rudimentary repetitions can be done almost entirely through dry practice. Dry practice requires no ammunition and no travel time to a shooting range. There is no excuse to not do it. The benefits of dry practice are available to every LEO who does it.


Recurring qualification is mandatory for every LEO who carries a firearm. It is universally understood and accepted that qualification has no exceptions. Every gun-carrying public servant must regularly requalify.

At agencies where there is regular, ongoing firearms training and all LEOs participate in it there is no need to qualify more than once each year. Testing should not be less than that. Some agencies are more comfortable testing more frequently and that is their prerogative. After all, qualification compels repetition of the fundamentals.

Where pistol training isn’t absolutely mandatory it isn’t unusual for individuals in that organization to skip it. For agencies experiencing training absences, a quarterly qualification is a viable option. That way everyone gets regular, ongoing trigger time. But qualification alone is not ideal, because qualification is mechanical, and mechanics are just the beginning of winning in lethal combat. Preparation for combat is the realm of training, and if every session focuses on making free-throws, then the rest of the game is missed.

A combination works for some agencies. For example, quarterly qualification is mandatory; it gets everyone there. At each session, the instructors begin by training all personnel. After the training objectives are met, a short qualification course is administered.


Qualifying after training generates debate about whether qualification should be done “cold,” with no warm-up. [6] Cold theoretically reflects skills as they are on the street. A cold qual is, supposedly, more legitimate because it is more like a gunfight. These are fine ideas, but not practical.

In most cases, LEOs know in advance the date, time, location, weather and lighting conditions of their next qualification; [7] and they usually know the exact amount of time they have to fire a precise number of rounds at each of the exact qualification distances. That isn’t like gunfights. LEOs usually have ample opportunity to prepare for quals by practicing in advance. In fact, we encourage officers to practice before testing. If upcoming quals motivate officers to practice, then the community is well served. It is acceptable to maintain or regain skill any time.

For cold quals, what happens when someone fails? Do they get remedial training and then another attempt that same day? They should. [8] Any subsequent attempt isn’t cold. Nor is any qualification course cold if it has more than one string of fire. Anything after the first volley of shots is warm.

Except to passionate instructors, whose effort and commitment we appreciate (we need them!), whether a qualification is done cold or warm simply does not matter. Reality-based training scenarios with live role players are more like gunfights. RBT is where this energy is better invested.


Qualified status means an LEO met or exceeded the agency’s skills floor as of the successful test date. Whether an agent attained, maintained, or regained skills on the day of the test does not matter. “Qualified” is the person’s status when they leave the range.

Achieving or maintaining qualified status with a service pistol does not bestow upon an LEO their inalienable right to self-defense. That comes with birth. For an LEO who doesn’t meet qualification standards by the end of the session, their status is “in progress.” An in-progress officer’s job assignment should be modified to avoid on-duty contact with people outside the office. Sub-standard lethal force is not something we can trifle with. The officer is put on light duty until they regain their skills and pass the test. [9]

When an LEO in otherwise good standing demonstrates sub-standard pistol performance, they should keep the weapon, keep it loaded and keep carrying it. No one can predict when the officer will have a coincidental and inadvertent paths-crossing with a begrudging previous arrestee, or find themselves suddenly in the middle of an active shooter situation. Even an incompetent LEO has the right and authority to defend himself and others. Beyond self-defense, we also want the officer to practice on their own in order to regain skill, and they need the weapon for that.

Finally, agencies must maintain records of each officer’s training and qualification. These records are an agency’s best evidence for demonstrating reasonable care and caution with regard to firearms proficiency among their personnel. Agencies are not expected to (and normally don’t) maintain records of individual officer practice sessions.


Pistol qualification is an important administrative process for every law enforcement officer in every law enforcement agency.

There is no need to fabricate a gunfight environment for a shooting test, but the skills tested must be job-relevant. Everything from loading to reloading and unloading, from drawing to re-holstering, shooting from near to far and virtually everything that happens in between is job-related. The challenge is narrowing the list so a qualification course doesn’t take an hour to administer.

What matters more, however, is effect in dangerous conflict, and those skills are developed in training and practice that go beyond the shooting test.

What do you think? How does your agency handle the qualification process? Email


1. See Urey W. Patrick and John C. Hall, “In Defense of Self and Others…Issues, Facts & Fallacies – The Realities of Law Enforcement’s Use of Deadly Force,” third edition, pp.143-144.

2. In the United States the word “practice” is often used in sports to refer to team training sessions. Pre-season team sessions are often called “training.” Some other places use the word training for team sessions throughout the season. Because many LEOs play(ed) sports, it helps to clarify these terms as they are used in our profession.

3. Each law enforcement agency must decide how much gun-carrying latitude qualified status allows, but it should be more inclusive than the serial number the officer used to pass the test. Serial numbers are irrelevant to qualification. Serial numbers are necessary for inventory control and maintenance tracking. What matters of all weapons is that they comply with the agency’s technical specifications for service pistols.

4. The distance is 15 feet from the foul line to the front of the backboard. In NBA rules, from the time the player receives the ball at the free-throw line he has 10 seconds to shoot it. (Rule #9, section I a.)

5. In some places a broader organization (i.e., the state POST) mandates standards for all LEOs within their sphere of control. In those places, individual LEAs may set their own standards only insofar as they exceed (have higher standards than) the skills established by the umbrella organization.

6. Don’t confuse this discussion with a police sniper’s cold bore shot or cold bore qual with a precision rifle.

7. For agencies with their own ranges located where they can pull officers unscheduled off the street, that’s fantastic. But we are still not creating a gunfight environment when officers/agents shoot at fully exposed paper targets that hold perfectly still at predetermined distances with predetermined round counts and time constraints, especially when there is no critical decision-making involved.  

8. How many attempts should be allowed on the same day? That is another detail left to each agency. What matters is that the officer regains skill and proves it by passing the test.

9. How long should an in-progress officer be kept on the payroll in a light-duty assignment? Each situation is unique. Ultimately it is up to each LEA. But make no mistake, pistol competency is an absolute requirement for LEOs. The rare few who cannot or will not attain, maintain, or regain pistol skills must transition out of commissioned law enforcement service.

By Deputy Chief Kyle Sumpter |

About the author
Deputy Chief Kyle Sumpter has 30 years of law enforcement service. He was a patrol officer, FTO, training coordinator, major crimes detective, firearms instructor, SWAT officer and team commander, and graduated from the FBINA session 237. Kyle was on two seasons of the reality shooting competition show Top Shot. He teaches deadly force, de-escalation and resolving lethal situations to law enforcement officers throughout the state of Washington. He can be reached at

What Should Law Enforcement Reform Look Like?

While the national outcry for “police reform” is widely publicized on mainstream media channels, what would such reform actually look like if it were to be realistic and of any value?

​​Before the readership gets upset, this is in NO WAY a criticism or indictment of how law enforcement today does the job. That said, evolution is inevitable and resisting it only results in greater headache, heartache and—all too often—financial distress for the few who end up in the spotlight. While plenty of people who have never worked in law enforcement, both politicians and journalistic pundits alike, like to criticize how law enforcement officers did something, they seldom seem to offer a reasonable suggestion for how that something could be done differently or better. News outlets love to sensationalize an event and several news outlets have been caught carefully editing what they show to make an ugly situation seem even worse, always painting the law enforcement professionals in the worst possible light.
Reality is quite different from what we see on the news anymore (unfortunately). Journalistic integrity is challenged (HUGE understatement). But since there seems to be such a large societal conversation going on about “police reform,” we at the Officer Media Group thought it would be a good idea to find out how law enforcement professionals themselves felt reform could happen. What could be done or changed that would actually benefit the community and be within contemporary controls for how we do our job?
To that end, we crafted a very short and simple survey to solicit such opinions. In less than one week we received almost 800 replies. Below is a review of the responses and discussion on the options for reform in the order they were ranked by our respondents. Of interest to note is that the number one response we received has nothing to do with reforming police at all (see below). The next six are all changes that would have to be made at the agency level while the next one finally addresses individual officer performance—and even that is dependent on agency empowerment. Let’s take a look at the data.

Just to identify those taking the survey, we asked three questions: type of agency, position within the agency and whether the agency size is over or under 100 sworn officers.

Two-thirds of the respondents work for police departments. One-sixth work for sheriff’s offices and the rest were mixed between federal, military and private or other. This may seem inconsequential but it’s of note for one reason: The difference between police departments and sheriff’s offices.
Sheriff’s offices are Constitutionally mandated and sheriffs themselves are elected. They are directly responsible for the deputies under them. Police departments are created by governmental bodies—states, counties or cities. The police chief is an appointee of the chief executive officer of the given government unit (i.e. the governor, the county executive or the mayor). It’s an important difference and there are many examples of sheriffs behaving in the best interest of their constituents/citizens, while police chiefs do as they are directed by the governmental body they serve. To be fair, they have no choice if they want to stay employed.

Fifty-seven percent of the respondents were of supervisory or command rank with the remainder listing themselves as “line officers.”

The size of agency was a near even split between over 100 officers (54%) and below 100 officers (46%).
The fourth question was about what types of “police reform” would be most effective in the respondent’s opinion. Let’s list out the options for response in the order of popularity, top to bottom. They were:
  • Increase accountability of mainstream media outlets
  • Increase minimum hours of required annual training
  • Return to heavy focus on Community Oriented Policing
  • Increase training focus on community relations
  • Increase investment in less-lethal tool development/ deployment
  • Increase foot patrols/get officers out of their cruisers more
  • Increase length of basic police academy
  • Increase officer discretion in all misdemeanor criminal cases
  • Increase training in social assistance topics
  • Add certified/trained Social Workers to police & sheriffs agencies
  • Increase training on racial diversity/social morays and customs
  • Increase racial diversity within agencies/departments
  • Increase gender diversity within agencies/departments
  • Increase college requirements prior to hiring
  • Increase funding for education in prisons
  • Redefine “law enforcement” into “peace keeping” for performance expectations
  • Decriminalize streets drugs
  • Change/modify laws concerning/controlling use of force
  • Reduce funding for law enforcement as a whole

Remembering that the largest sampling group response came from police supervisors and command staff with agencies over 100 officers in size, it’s telling that the first most popular response was “Increase accountability of mainstream media outlets.” With over 75% of all respondents having selected that option, it was the number one most selected answer. Keep that in mind as you read through the rest of the commentary on other responses.

The next six most popular responses all deal with agency policy, direction and funding. Increasing training, whether it’s basic, social topics, community relations, etc.—all increases in training require an increase in funding. This is directly opposite of what so many people are demanding: “defund the police.”

When you get to the eighty item on the list—“Increase officer discretion in all misdemeanor criminal cases”—there is finally something impacted by the individual officer. It occurs to us that this is the item the public most needs to understand doesn’t exist as much as it probably should. It’s the item that the mainstream media would have you believe FULLY exists but only as prejudice. Think about it…

When the media says a white officer shot an unarmed black man, there are two implications: one, that the incident was racially motivated, and two that the officer had a choice. The third implication is that the officer made the wrong choice based on prejudice.

Now, let’s not confuse the issue: if an officer (of any race) is under immediate potentially lethal threat and defends himself (or herself) by using lethal force against a suspect (of any race), then the action is justified both legally and morally. Yes, there is discretion used on the part of the officer: he obviously had the option of NOT using defensive lethal force and risking dying. In many cases, the officer uses force to protect an innocent and not using force would sacrifice the innocent in favor of protecting the life / well-being of the violent perpetrator. This really is a dialogue that needs to be had at the national level and with full disclosure from all involved.

Several of the options listed included increasing diversity either by gender or race. Diversity is a laudable goal but the question is this: Should an agency—police or sheriff or other—be MORE diverse than the community served? Further, should the pursuit of diversity be place of greater priority than competence of the people hired? Let’s play Devil’s Advocate and look at two examples:

If a community has a perfect racial balance between two given races (i.e. “black” and “white”), then should the police department also be perfectly balanced? The obvious answer is yes. Neither race should be represented to a greater balance. The same can be said of gender. If the community is perfectly balanced male and female, then the police department should be the same, correct?

So, here’s the second part of that question: should the standards of hiring be sacrificed to insure balanced diversity? What if one race or the other doesn’t have enough qualified applicants to fill the necessary positions and keep the agency balanced? Should the agency then operate at reduced staffing levels to maintain the balance? Or should the qualified applicants be hired even though it will offset the balance?

The answer is one dictated by both federal law, many states’ laws, county personnel policies and the same in cities. The nationwide cry for police reform assumes a few very wrong “facts”: It assumes that all law enforcement are police and will be changed accordingly. It assumes that all departments operate exactly the same and that all budgets are the same. It assumes that all races, genders, sexual orientations and education levels are equally proportioned in every community.

None of those “facts” are actually true and trying to reshape law enforcement in compliance with false facts is… well… ludicrous. Let’s start with holding the mainstream media accountable for their misrepresentations and increase funding for training. It would be a great foundation for law enforcement reform moving forward.

By Lt. Frank Borelli (ret) |

Photo ID 184954780 © Hanna Tverdokhlib |

A Look Back at Training in ‘Days Gone By’

In December, the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association provided an intensive and detailed two-week training seminar for newly elected sheriffs officially taking office January 1, 2021.

Although the format may have been a little different in previous years, it’s clear that the MSA has long been focused on carrying out it’s mission to “Support the Office of Sheriff and the Constitution through legislative efforts, training and technical assistance, in its efforts to make communities a safer, more enjoyable place to live, to work, and to raise a family.”

An excerpt from ‘Days Gone By,’ appearing in the February 10, 2021 issue of the Daily Journal

40 Years – 1980

Deputy sheriffs Jerry Brenneke and Cheryl Duncan, and Samuel Noel of the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department, successfully completed a three-week training program in Jefferson City for newly elected sheriffs and deputies, jointly conducted by the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Institute for Public Safety of the University of Missouri.

Review: Force on Force Marker Training Rounds Take Realism to the Next Level

​Realistic training, using unmodified duty guns and equipment, has no equal in the maintenance of perishable skills. Force on Force marking cartridges are better products for this training. (Photo/Jeff Rose-Blackhawk)​


Training with marking rounds against live opponents is a completely different metric than any other tactical training. Nothing prepares an officer for the rigor of the job like having targets that can shoot back.

Studies demonstrate that scenario-based training using “real-world stress” such as using marking rounds, promotes the memory encoding of critical skills. That is, using this type of training makes perishable skills less perishable.

Officers who have benefited from these sessions know the feeling of being completely exhausted, legs trembling from being crouched over for long periods and fatigued from a prolonged state of alertness.

Most police trainers have experimented with airsoft, laser trainers and converted firearms to accomplish their training goals. The one problem every trainer has faced is that most products don’t let officers use either their duty guns, or their holsters, or both.

To be clear: Anything short of real duty guns, real pain, real hits and real duty equipment is a recipe for training scars, which we cannot afford in this business.


I got to test Force on Force realistic marking cartridges and conversions that fire in unmodified duty firearms. Force on Force marker training rounds can be used in an officer’s own 9mm firearm for realistic training. There is also a 5.56 round, which uses a conversion bolt for the AR-15. There are competitive products out there, but Force on Force is on a level of realism I have not seen before.

Force on Force rounds use a lead-free primer with no powder. The propellant does not smoke or smell, nor does it put anything toxic into the air. This makes it safe to use as close as 1 foot. No ear protection is required, even indoors.

During one of my scenarios, I had an enactor arm himself with a training knife and rush me. This is my public apology to him for taking my last three shots from 9mm Force on Force rounds at contact distance. They really are safe at the 1-foot standoff distance.

I have played with other marking products. With Force on Force products, I did not have to swab the barrel every few uses. The rounds didn’t require any special packaging or handling. Most noticeably, no one had magazines with broken paint capsules in them either.

Force on Force marking rounds have a maximum training range of 60 ft. They do a good job mimicking the ordinary abilities of the firearm. I made several headshots at the 7-yard mark on a fully kitted enactor same as I would confidently take a hostage rescue shot.

The marking agent itself never dries and has a consistency similar to paint. It comes in blue, green, yellow, white, red and orange. The important thing is the fact that the payloads break when they strike a target, not in the gun. In fact, during our entire training session, I did not witness a single failure.

There was never a moment when anyone asked, “Was I hit? I need to check.” One of the first questions I had was whether an accidental strike on soft tissue would be problematic. I kind of answered my question in the next scenario. Users should wear full face masks, neck protectors and other protective gear.

Pain penalty is important in training. The increased adrenalin is an important component in realism. I am a firm believer in using a HIGH GEAR suit. I advocate for the Shocknife and training guns should shoot actual projectiles for realistic training. The more realistic the training, the more effective the training, when it comes to perishable skills.


The 9mm marking round has a similar form factor to a real cartridge, but it is different enough to make a visual and tactile confirmation. This is a critical safety element in realistic training. The projectiles run 325-425 fps and the plastic projectiles weigh 6 grains.

The 9mm rounds work in unmodified 9mm guns. The concept, however, is akin to what I want to tell some people I see in the local store. Just because you can wear it, doesn’t mean you should wear it. I strongly recommend your agency purchase brightly colored training guns and enforce ammo control in training areas. Every major manufacturer has a firing version of their duty gun in a different color, preferably “training blue.” Use them for this purpose. For the .223/5.56 version, use clearly marked barrel tags.


The 5.56 cartridge uses a bolt carrier group conversion kit that will convert a carbine in just a few seconds. This conversion is internal only and does not alter the characteristics of the gun. This lets officers use their complete kit without interfering with on-gun accessories. The 5.56 cartridge fires a 4-grain marking projectile at 400-550 fps.


I have used marking rounds where the paint had some kind of oil base. It permanently stained my clothing and was hard to wipe off between scenarios. None of us had this problem with Force on Force products. This alone is a great reason to use these products.

Your agency should be using marking rounds for critical incident training. Force on Force products are at the top of the food chain.

By Lindsey Bertomen |​


About the author

Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer and retired military small arms trainer. He teaches criminal justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, California. He has a BS in Criminal Justice and an MS in Online Teaching and Learning. Lindsey has taught shooting techniques for over a decade. His articles on firearms tactics have appeared in print for over a decade. Lindsey enjoys competing in shooting sports, running, and cycling events.​​

Register for Promoting Wellness and Resiliency in Correctional Staff Webinar

Do you want to see what some of the latest data and promising practices are revealing about staff wellness for corrections officers and staff? Would you like to learn how to apply a holistic approach to your workplace along the continuum of preventive to reactive responses?

If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions, plan to participate in the one-hour-long Promoting Wellness and Resiliency in Correctional Staff Webinar, set for ​1 p.m. February 2.

Correctional staff face significant stress and challenges in maintaining wellness and resiliency in the workplace. There is emerging evidence that effective strategies and programs exist; however, they often occur in a piecemeal or sporadic fashion. This webinar provides academic insight into the current research on officer wellness and references emerging areas of innovative practices.

It includes practitioner expertise on valuable resources and support for correctional officers and staff. We will move from preventive to reactive strategies and build on new approaches to increase resiliency.

Participants will learn what research and practice tell us about the short and long-term effects that working in corrections can have and how to promote staff wellness and manage trauma in response to what they experience.

Learning Objectives : During this one-hour interactive webinar, participants will

1) develop an understanding of the current research on correctional staff wellness and resiliency,

2) learn how to apply a holistic approach to their workplace, and

3) gain knowledge on promising real-world practices that can assist and promote both wellness and resiliency.


Dr. Hayden Smith is an Associate Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina. His principal focus of study is the intersection of the criminal justice and public health systems. Core areas include self-injurious and suicidal behaviors in incarcerated populations, physical and mental health needs in correctional settings, jail diversion, reentry initiatives, and correctional staff well-being and safety. Dr. Smith has expertise in program evaluation and policy analysis and has worked with numerous correctional and health systems.

Ms. Karin Ho is the Director for Victim Services with the South Carolina Department of Corrections. She has more than 30 years of victim advocacy experience and over 25 years in corrections. Recognizing how correctional staff were affected by traumatic events, she implemented the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Peer Team and Post Critical Incident Seminars for employees with ongoing trauma-related issues. As part of the CISM Team, Karin is the handler for a specially trained trauma dog who responds to correctional staff throughout the state.

The presenters have engaged in several academic-practitioner partnerships that address correctional officer and staff well-being.

Who Should Attend ?

Any employee of a state, federal or local correctional jurisdiction.

How Do I Register ?

Follow this link to register in NIC’s WebEx Event Center:

For content and technical information, contact Scott W. Richards, Correctional Program Specialist, NIC Prison’s Division at

How Do I Participate Effectively In a WebEx Event Center Webinar? How Do I Get Ready ?

  • For the best experience in your next NIC WebEx Event Center webinar, you’ll need a hands-free telephone, headset or earbuds, and an internet-enabled computer.
  • For optimum learning, be in a quiet place, free from distractions/interruptions, sight-and-sound separated from others, where you can concentrate on what is happening during the webinar. A separate office space with a door to close is an ideal setting.
  • Connect to the webinar audio bridge via a hands-free telephone, using earbuds/headset connected to your phone/cell phone, so your hands are free to interact with your keyboard.
  • While tablets and smartphones are also compatible with WebEx Events Center, several of the features are limited, and most devices require the installation of the Cisco WebEx app.
  • Regardless of which device you plan to use, test its compatibility here. The link provides a quick test, and we strongly encourage you to do this before the webinar.
  • If your browser does not pass the test, contact Webex Technical Support at 1-877-669-1782 and tell them you will be attending an NIC webinar on NIC’s Webex site at . They can help you troubleshoot connectivity issues.
  • NIC strongly recommends consulting with your agency/local IT , as you may encounter pop-up blocking and/or firewall issues that block the NIC Webex webinar url.

Click for further information on NIC’s live webinars, including (cost = free!), how to obtain training credit from your agency, and much more.

Reinvesting in Traffic Safety Post 2020

Law Enforcement agencies across the country are struggling with re-establishing a normal workflow following shutdowns and social distancing recommendations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, people continue to die on the nation’s roadways. Many agencies, out of necessity, have restricted the activity of their traffic contacts. They are forced to limit action to only critical or blatant violations. 

As recovery and the measured reopening of states across the country progress, social unrest is erupting. This has taken scarce resources away from an already diminished focus on traffic safety. Agencies respond by adjusting to a “new normal” based on their community needs. 

If lives are to be saved, traffic safety must remain a priority in the day-to-day operations of law enforcement agencies. Prior LEL Webinars focused on implementing safe and effective traffic enforcement strategies in the post-COVID world. December’s webinar takes the next logical step by suggesting an approach to resuming education and enforcement efforts.

This traffic safety outreach initiative is offered in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Presentation collaborators include Ohio State Patrol Colonel Ken Morckle (ret.), Nevada Highway Patrol Colonel John O’Rourke (ret.) and Winter Park Police Chief Brett Railey (ret.), senior public safety consultant for The Digital Decision Public Safety Team. These veteran law enforcement professionals present their perspectives on a logical plan for the return of a traffic safety focus into the daily operations of law enforcement agencies.

The program will emphasize the four most critical areas of enforcement that can have the greatest impact on traffic fatalities:

  • Prioritizing enforcement of DUI
  • Speed
  • Occupant restraint
  • Pedestrian and bicycle enforcement will save lives.  
​The ​Reinvesting in Traffic Safety, Post-2020 ​webinar ​is set for 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. December 9.
Register now.​

The Rarity of Deadly Force: The True But Largely Untold Story of Police Forgoing Deadly Force

In 2018, police made over 10.3 million arrests in the U.S. That same year, police killed 990 people. That’s less than one in 10,000.

Between 2011 and 2015, the number of people who had police contact ranged from 62.9 million to 53.5 million. Taking the lower number of contacts for an average, and using the number of deaths in 2018, that’s less than one in 54,000.​​

I favor transparency and a national database on police use of deadly force. I’m confident it will show the rarity of deadly force, and the greater rarity of the unjustified use of deadly force. (I understand that unjustifiable deadly force is not a statistic to the victim and their family.) Also, there is much to learn from deadly use of force incidents that could improve officer training and better educate the public.


What about when police are justified in using deadly force but refrain from doing so? Surely there are valuable lessons there, too – for the profession and the public.

In an online search, I discovered Restraint in the Use of Deadly Force: A Preliminary Study. (“Restraint” in this study meant an officer forgoing deadly force, not the use of physical restraint.)

Written by four professionals with educations and careers in law enforcement, the preliminary study reflected the authors’ discussions over 30 years with thousands of police officers nation-wide while teaching, conducting research and consulting on cases regarding the use of force, including deadly.  

Based on their work and three publications resulting from it, in 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, awarded a grant to the authors for training law enforcement officers. Ten sites from across the nation were selected, and the training was offered to approximately 50 participants at each site.

During the training, 295 officers with an average of 17 years of police experience completed a confidential survey about their use of force and related issues. The survey revealed a notable pattern of officers forgoing the use of justified deadly force:

  • Officers in the sample were involved in 1,189 situations where deadly force was justified.
  • Officers fired their weapons in 87 of these incidents and refrained from firing in 1,102.

In other words, officers refrained from using justified deadly force 93% of the time.


The authors asked,

“If officers risk their personal safety by using restraint in deadly force, why has this phenomenon largely gone unnoticed in the media and research? An analysis of research on the topic of deadly force yields no studies directly related to the use of restraint in deadly force by agents of law enforcement.”

They noted the limits of their preliminary study:

  • It didn’t delve into the inner psychology and perceptions of the officers in their decision to forgo deadly force.
  • The self-reported data from the officers wasn’t validated by objective reports.

And they offered suggestions for future research, such as:

  • What factors lead to officers forgoing deadly force?
  • Does the use of deadly force reduce or increase the inclination of officers to forgo deadly force in subsequent critical incidents?
  • How do individual officers perceive refraining from deadly force?

I asked one of the authors, Dr. Pinizzotto, if he was aware of any research in this area since he and his colleagues published their preliminary study. He wasn’t. My personal online search also found none.

Dr. Pinizzotto suggested agencies document circumstances where officers have drawn their firearms without firing when deadly force was justified. To that, I’d add instances where they have not drawn their firearms when deadly force was justified.

My esteemed Police1 colleague, Chief Joel Schultz, writing about how decisions to forgo force might inform training had a suggestion for how to gather such information:

The days of small departments relying on studies from large agencies with the resources to pay for research or attract grants may be waning. Many officers and administrators have advanced degrees that required using research methods. Collaboration with area colleges or a sharp intern can yield helpful guidance on creating a viable study.”


I don’t have expertise in research or survey design, but this is a narrative that needs to be told. In the absence of academicians taking this on, perhaps the profession needs to become more engaged in telling its own stories.

Chief Schultz provided a viable suggestion for gathering the relevant data. Then you must get it out. If you can get the ear of a Washington Post reporter or writer for The Atlantic Monthly or an investigative reporter with REVEAL – The Center for Investigative Reporting, challenge them to write about it. Consider contacting a local reporter. Of course, you’ll have to be willing to provide them information from your agency.

The profession can learn from incidents where officers forgo the use of deadly force. So, too, can the public. This true, but largely untold, story needs to be heard.  


Police1 has created the Institutional Knowledge Project to create a repository of lessons learned around the handling of the situations LEOs face every day. Click here to share your experiences regarding the use of deadly force addressing these general areas:

If you have ever been in a situation where the use of deadly force would have been justified and you did not use deadly force, what led you to refrain from using deadly force? What did you do instead? What was the outcome? Was anyone injured? If so, please specify who (officer, suspect, bystander) was injured and how severely. Would you make the same choice if the same situation arose again?

Click here to participate.


By Val Van Brocklin |

About the author
As a state and federal prosecutor, Val’s trial work was featured on ABC’S PRIMETIME LIVE, Discovery Channel’s Justice Files, in USA Today, The National Enquirer and REDBOOK. Described by Calibre Press as “the indisputable master of entertrainment,” Val is now an international law enforcement trainer and writer. She’s had hundreds of articles published online and in print. She appears in person and on TV, radio, and video productions. When she’s not working, Val can be found flying her airplane with her retriever, a shotgun, a fly rod, and high aspirations. Visit Val at and

Photo by Scott Olson | Getty Images

Too Fast For Conditions: A Conversation on Speeding

​J​oin the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) on Thursday, November 12 from ​2 to 3 p.m. Central Standard Time​ for a roundtable discussion on speeding trends during the pandemic, state and local efforts to address this issue, and the opportunities and challenges presented by automated speed enforcement. 

This webinar is sponsored by Redflex. 
Moderator: – Russ Martin, Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations, GHSA 
Sponsor Remarks: – Mark Talbot, CEO, 
Redflex Panel Discussion: 
– Jonlee Anderele, Ph.D, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Region 5 
– Daniel Farley, Chief, Traffic Operations Deployment and Maintenance Section, Pennsylvania DOT 
– Jonathan Nelson, Assistant to the State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer, Department of Highway Safety and Traffic, Missouri DOT  

Missouri Law Enforcement Required to Complete De-escalation and Implicit Bias Training

Starting next year all Missouri officers are required to take one hour each of de-escalation and implicit bias training annually to maintain their licenses.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office approved the new training standards that require annual continuing education training.

The new training standards will be effective on January 1, 2021.

They were approved by the Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission on October 5.

“Our law enforcement officers take on extraordinary risks and make tremendous sacrifices to make Missouri safer,” Governor Mike Parson said. “These enhanced standards will help equip officers with relevant, up-to-date training to meet the challenges they face daily and facilitate better communication and interactions with the public.”

Missouri law enforcement officers must complete 24 hours of annual continuing education training to maintain their licenses.

The POST Commission’s action on October 5 required one hour each in de-escalation and implicit bias training be part of each officer’s 24 hours of annual training.