Force Science News #128:

Recent training in Canada puts 71 new Force Science analysts in the field

From across Canada, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, and from 2 US states, 71 more trainees were awarded certification as Force Science analysts recently, after completing an intensive 5-day program in Calgary, Alberta.


With 3 previous courses in England and California, there are now nearly 300 graduates in North America and overseas trained to examine use-of-force cases according to scientific principles of human dynamics.


The Calgary trainees included line officers, supervisors, review board members, union representatives, legal advisors, homicide investigators, and firearms instructors from more than 20 agencies. Some traveled more than 3,000 miles to attend the training.


During the program they were given up-to-the-minute reports from leading researchers on the gross and subtle ways that performance and memory can be affected by the intense pressures of life-threatening encounters. With the interpretive help of course leader Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Research Center, trainees learned how these factors can influence an officer’s behavior in shootings and other confrontations and what elements investigators should consider to properly interpret these often-controversial and puzzling events. Attendees were given real-life, headline-grabbing cases to analyze for group presentations as part of their training.


In today’s policing, Chief Rick Hanson of the Calgary Police Service said in greeting the trainees, “challenges come up every day that we didn’t dream of having 10 years ago. Today everyone is looking for that 1 flaw on which to contest police action. When I read what this course is about, I fully supported it. Anything that can help officers make better decisions and defend their actions is invaluable.”


Note: The next Force Science certification course will be held Oct. 26-30 in Franklin, WI just outside of Milwaukee. This program is sponsored by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. For more information or to register for this limited-seating course, send a note to: or call Scott Buhrmaster at 773-481-4964. Click here for more information on the course.


[Special thanks to S/Sgt. Darren Leggatt and S/Sgt. Chris Butler, certified Force Science analysts and use-of-force experts for the Calgary Police Service, for their outstanding logistical assistance and spirited support of this latest certification program.]


II. In pain? Swear your way out, new study advises




Ahhhhhhhhh! That feels better! At least that’s what a new British study promises.


If you’re trying to ease the pain of an injury, says this first-of-a-kind research, start cussin’.


Dr. Richard Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University in Staffordshire, England, accidentally smashed his little finger “really, really hard” with a hammer while building a shed in his garden awhile back. “While it was throbbing,” he recalls, “I swore a bit.” His wife later cut loose a string of expletives during the pain of childbirth—and those 2 incidents got him wondering about the psychology and physiology of cursing.


With 2 colleagues, he arranged a simple experiment. Drawing on some 5 dozen undergraduate volunteers, the team had subjects submerge their hands in a bucket of ice-cold water and see how long they could endure the pain while continuously repeating a swear word of their choice. The test was then repeated, but this time the students could only utter a neutral control word, like “brown” or “square.”


Well, [bleep] me! Cursing helped, especially with female subjects!


“Swearing increased pain tolerance…and decreased perceived pain compared with not swearing,” Stephens reported. The swearers were able to keep their hands submerged an average of 160 seconds, compared to only 100 seconds for the non-cursers. That’s “quite a big difference,” Stephens says.


Why? “Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon,” Stephens says. Unlike most language production, which occurs in the outer few millimeters of the left hemisphere of the brain, swearing seems to arise from the primitive emotional centers buried deep in the right-side brain. Uttering an expletive in response to physical pain may be instinctive, akin to a dog yelping when its tail is stepped on.


“In swearing,” Stephens told a reporter for Time, “people have an emotional response, and it’s the emotional response that actually triggers the reduction of pain.” He also noted that the swearers in his experiment experienced consistently accelerated heart rates during their diatribes, suggesting that cussing may increase aggression, “which downplays weakness in order to appear stronger.”


A couple of caveats:


• If you casually swear a lot in your daily life, you may be blunting cuss words as an Rx for pain. Speculating on why foul-mouthed women on average did better in suppressing pain during Stephens’ experiment, Dr. Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, says he suspects that “swearing retains more of an emotional punch [for women] because it has not been overused. That’s one reason I think people should not overuse profanity in their speech and writing…because it blunts [swear words] of their power when you do need them.”


• A tendency to “pain catastrophise” also tended to reduce the analgesic effect of obscene words, Stephens found. Catastrophise means to “blow things all out of proportion,” explains Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Research Center, which as not involved in the experiments. “When you are mentally exaggerating a situation, you tend to focus more on the trauma and pain. If you’re focused on swearing, you’re shifting your attention in another direction, releasing psychological and physiological tension, and suppressing your perception of pain.”


In future research, Stephens says, he hopes to explore more deeply “the relationship between induced aggression and reduction of pain.” Meanwhile, a full report on his current study can be accessed for a fee at the website for the journal NeuroReport: See the Aug. 5 issue.



III. Mailbag: Time distortion, excited delirium, and Tasers


Our readers write:


1. Time speeds up sometimes, slows others. How come?


During my civilian experiences and work as a medic, I have often had to restrain people, end fights, use passive restraint and very mild self-defense. When in these situations, or some intense medical/trauma scenes, time sped up and became choppy, leaving me with poor perception during and poor recollection after the events.


But in other seemingly similar cases, time would see to slow down and I could move and respond much faster than normal, with total clarity and both physical and mental rapidity beyond my normal abilities.


Can you explain why some severe stresses provoke a “tunnel vision” and choppy experience, while other seem to bend time to make it easier to help? And how do you transform the former into the latter?


Jesse Beckow


President/lead medic


Advanced Rescue Consulting


Thornhill (ON) Canada


Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center, responds:


First understand that the human brain does not have a built-in clock that constantly measures time objectively. Instead, the brain uses itself, its experience, and to what and how it’s paying attention, as a reference point. So when the more rational, contemplative part of the brain is hijacked in stressful situations by the primitive, emotion-based amygdala or “crisis center”, widely differing impressions of time tend to register.


Broadly speaking, when you’re feeling suddenly overwhelmed in a stressful situation, with too much to comprehend and accomplish in the time-frame available, you’re likely to perceive time speeding up. But in a similar situation, if you are sharply focused and drawing on a deep well of training to respond, time may appear to slow down, because your brain has streamlined the situation and is operating efficiently in survival mode. Because your sense of competence, confidence, emotion, and attention can vary among quite similar situations, your perception of time can vary as well.


Research conducted by Drs. Audrey Honig and J. Roland and earlier work by Dr. Alexis Artwohl inform us that some 41% to 62% of officers who survive shootings report having experienced a “slow-motion” effect in which they felt sufficient time to respond effectively. Only a minority of survivors (17% to 20%) seemed to experience time speeding up.


Either way, we need to remember that officers who’ve been in stressful events should not be expected to give accurate estimates regarding duration. They may try to do so in response to investigators’ questions, but they’re only guessing at best.


Any officer who is attempting to accurately note time while in the midst of a highly stressful, rapidly unfolding, life-threatening situation might be better off paying attention to other more important matters.


2. Tasers and ED: The “victims” are at fault


I just read the last Force Science News [Transmission #127] about Tasers and effects on a person causing death. What researchers [often] ignore are the drugs in the system and the abuse the victims’ hearts have suffered in the past.


I studied as a graduate student cardiac physiology and have attended many autopsies of drug overdose deaths. Individuals who use cocaine have heart arrhythmias all the time due to the abuse of cocaine. When individuals who have a hypertrophy of the left ventricle are physically stressed and under the influence of drugs, sometimes cocktails of their own desires, they have an anoxic heart and arrhythmias. Giving them a jolt of a Taser and a dump of adrenalin pushes the arrhythmias to the point of fibrillation, thus the sudden death.


This was observed in isolated hearts in which adrenalin was administered and the total uptake of oxygen occurred in these hearts. Now fight with an individual who is also stressed by the prolonged use of cocaine or other drugs and then he suffers the release of adrenalin and dies of sudden death, although no Taser was used. These occurred numerous times in Michigan before the legalization of Tasers. These deaths were blamed on hog-tying suspects and led to all kinds of stupid protocols.


It comes down to this: Individuals who abuse their bodies and then fight with the police and die as a consequence of their action are at fault, not the police.


Det. Dean Vosler


Bay City (MI)



IV. Training dates for your professional advancement calendar


These upcoming instructional events, both involving Force Science Research Center associates, are well worth your training time and money:


1. 2009 Legacy of Excellence Conference, Sept. 8-10, and Excited Delirium Seminar, Sept. 11, Calgary, AB, Canada.


This year your training at Brian Willis’ outstanding annual Legacy of Excellence Conference can be extended a day to include a presentation on the latest research and tactics regarding excited delirium and sudden in-custody deaths, presented by Chris Lawrence, a technical advisory board member of the FSRC.


He’ll provide practical information on assessing these situations, intervention strategies, subject control techniques, evidence collection, and investigative follow up. Lawrence, a staff instructor at one of North America’s largest police training facilities, is currently serving at a prominent Canadian research organization as manager for less-lethal research.


On tap for the Conference itself is an array of leading instructors:


• Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of On Killing and On Combat and one of the most popular instructors in law enforcement, speaking on “The Bulletproof Mind”;


• Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, a member of FSRC’s national advisory board and a charter member of the IACP’s Psychological Services Section, speaking on “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement”;


• Chris Ghannam of Sark Securities, recognized as a world-class urban warfare survival instructor, addressing “Preventing the Tactical Plateau,” with innovative, unconventional training platforms;


• Chris Butler, a certified Force Science analyst and coordinator of field training and use of force for the Calgary Police Service, exploring “Implications on the Search for Reasonableness in Police Use of Force”;


• Lt. Dan Marcou, much-decorated veteran of the La Crosse (WI) PD and popular columnist for PoliceOne, outlining “The 5 Phases of an Active Shooter,” which, when properly understood, can help prevent would-be killers from having their day of carnage;


• Det. Sgt. Jim Dowle of the Hertfordshire (England) Constabulary, prominent in sniper and counter-terrorist circles, explaining “The Radicalization Process of Islamic Terrorists”;


• Kevin McInnes, a former cop and now a senior police chaplain, speaking on “The Spirit of the Servant Warrior,” with particular emphasis on how to nurture the “hard inner skills” that prepare, motivate, strengthen, and encourage you to respond appropriately as an LEO; and


• Brian Willis, a certified Force Science analyst and president of Winning Mind Training, discussing “Excellence in Training.”


For more information and to download a registration form, go to:



2. Lethal and Less-Lethal Force Workshop, Oct. 26-28, Las Vegas, NV.


Internationally recognized as the leading program of its kind, this workshop, presented by Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, concentrates on the latest research, technology, training, procedures, legal and policy issues related to force confrontations.


Content includes:


• properly conducting use-of-force investigations;


• dealing effectively with force challenges in court;


• avoiding lawsuits often inherent in electronic, physical, and chemical restraint;


• managing mentally ill, drug-influenced, and suicidal subjects with less-lethal options;


• defending against “the legal onslaught” from in-custody deaths;


• applying the latest research to policies and procedures about Taser use;


• taming the “media frenzy” after controversial shootings;


• making practical use of cutting-edge studies from the Force Science Research Center;


• coping with excessive force accusations;


• learning the lessons of officer-involved shootings;


• dissecting and applying Supreme Court standards regarding force use and liability, and


• much more that will better equip you to manage the many challenges of force deployment in today’s litigious society.


Course faculty includes: Josh Lego of the St. Paul (MN) PD, an adjunct instructor for the Force Science Institute; Greg Meyer, a certified Force Science analyst and former captain with the Los Angeles Police Academy; Capt. Kris Pitcher, commander of LAPD’s Force Investigation Division and a certified Force Science analyst; Dr. John Peters Jr., president of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths; Ken Katsaris, litigation consultant and expert witness with experience in all 50 states; Dr. Audrey Honig, chief psychologist for the Los Angeles County (CA) SD; Judge Emory Plitt Jr., with more than 35 years’ experience in civil liability and other litigation in public safety agencies; and Michael Brave, national litigation counsel for Taser International.


For registration and more information, visit AELE’s website:



Written by Force Science Institute

July 30th, 2009 at 7:37 am

© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.