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Effective Game-Based Training for Police Officer Decision-Making: Linking Missions, Skills, and Virtual Content

NCJ Number
Date Published
14 pages

This study implemented virtual reality (VR) technology to train law enforcement officers to improve decision-making under duress. 


This paper presents a pilot study that developed a framework for implementing low-cost, game-based, virtual reality (VR) technology for training police officers to improve decision-making under stress. Working with partners in the police training community, the study team developed a method to ensure virtual training environments reflect intended training goals. This approach maps standard policing missions to content within a virtual training environment. It includes: (1) identifying the most stressful scenarios for police officers; (2) developing detailed scenario scripts, (3) identifying key tasks and skills required in the scenarios and mapping them to virtual content and measures of trainee performance; (4) developing vignettes in a gaming environment; (5) developing a research protocol to test the system, and implementing the protocol with a sample of police officers; and (6) developing a plan to implement the proposed gaming technology in police department training curricula. Using this approach, the authors were able to target a large range of training tasks and skills in existing law enforcement curricula with just a few vignettes. Furthermore, this approach is scalable; it may improve access to simulation-based training content across law enforcement departments, and it can be applied to other job domains. Police officers encounter a variety of stressful conditions on the job. Learning to operate in such circumstances is critical, as skills can be impaired under stress. While repetitive exposure to these kinds of situations can foster appropriate responses, in-service police training may not address stress as effectively as needed. Virtual reality (VR) and game-based training (GBT) can meet some of these needs by enabling officers to develop skills in an immersive environment without expensive equipment, facilities, or human actors, thereby increasing opportunities for repetition and practice. However, to be effective, training content must be linked to underlying training goals and assessment of trainee performance on those goals.

Date Published: January 1, 2020