Force Science News #151:

Does race influence cop-on-cop shootings? Plus: Old drugs get new uses in fighting critical-incident trauma, researchers say

Editor’s note: For those who didn’t get a chance to read the feature articles on Force Science that appeared recently in the Police Magazine and Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement as well as the Discovery Channel feature on the recent Force Science research project focused on the dangers posed by prone subjects, visit: to see them. You’ll also find a fascinating article co-authored by three Force Science staffers that recently appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.


I. Coming up: Does Race Really Influence Cop-on-Cop Shootings? The Force Science Perspective


A Governor’s Task Force in New York, formed to examine police-on-police shootings nationwide, recently issued an extensive report that claims “intrinsic” racial bias may be involved when out-of-uniform black officers are mistaken for criminals and shot dead by their colleagues.


But a Force Science Position Paper on the subject, which is attached as an appendix to the Task Force study, reaches a much different conclusion. More important than any racial considerations in these tragic events, says the Force Science analysis, are likely to be certain biological and physiological laws of human performance.


Indeed, says the Force Science paper, officers who mistakenly shoot other cops, may not even be aware of the race of their target. What commonly dominates these incidents, instead, are the ways extraordinary stress affects the perception, judgment, and reactions of challenged and challenging officers alike.


• What role does race play in “friendly fire” confrontations?


• What behavioral influences should investigators consider in evaluating these tragedies?


• How do minority officers feel about the statistical odds they face when they arm themselves out of uniform?


• What “safeguards” that officers are commonly trained in might not work in real-life situations?


• What lessons can we learn from the field experience of the last 3 decades?


• Is your agency prepared to handle one of these catastrophic events?


In the next edition of Force Science News, we’ll launch a 2-part series that explores the findings and speculations of the Governor’s Task Force and the Force Science perspective on these devastating shootings. Watch your inbox 2 weeks from now for Part 1.



II. Old drugs get new uses in fighting critical-incident trauma, researchers say


In recent years, much of the focus for treating post-traumatic stress disorder has centered on traditional “talk therapy” and newer abatement techniques like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Now the latest research seems to be expanding an emerging frontier that involves unexpected mind-impacting drugs.


Several physicians who specialize in pain management, for example, are reporting success in treating PTSD with injections of a local anesthetic called bupivacaine, more commonly used as an epidural anesthetic during childbirth.


This treatment, called a “stellate ganglion block” (SGB), has traditionally been used for decades to relieve arm and facial pain. Injections are made next to a collection of nerves in the neck during a procedure that usually takes about 10 minutes.


According to functional MRI readings, the drug, in addition to relieving physical pain, also affects the part of the brain that is active during fear and other traumatic emotions, causing changes that quickly and significantly relieve anxiety, according to Dr. Eugene Lipov, a Chicago-area anesthesiologist and researcher who has pioneered this treatment for PTSD.


“We can see and measure the physiologic changes that occur,” Lipov explains. “These MRIs are telling us that the cause of PTSD is physical in nature, and not simply a psychological condition.”


He believes that trauma “leads to an increase in nerve growth”—a “sprouting of sympathetic nerves”—that in turn causes increased production of adrenaline, resulting in increased anxiety. “A block placed next to the stellate ganglion leads to a decrease in nerve growth factor and a reversal of PTSD symptoms,” he says.


Among patients he has treated successfully, he reports, is a young woman who was accosted outside a movie theater by 2 would-be robbers who tried to force her and a companion into a car at gunpoint. A passing squad car scared them off and the woman was not physically harmed. She was, however, left with persistent “extreme anxiety,” panic attacks, and irrational, “paralyzing” fear. Diagnosed with PTSD, she gained 60 pounds, at times became “house-trapped,” and eventually flunked out of college.


Injections from Lipov, she says, relieved her PTSD symptoms and restored her sense of control over her life. She is now confidently enrolled in nursing school for the fall.


Dr. Paul Lynch, co-founder of Arizona Pain Specialists in the Phoenix area, says his use of the SGB procedure on PTSD sufferers has “an effect similar to antidepressants.


It’s like rebooting the brain.” And Dr. Sean Mulvaney of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland reports that “unlike conventional treatments for PTSD, SGB appears to provide results almost immediately.”


He cites 2 patients: one a 36-year-old male on active duty in Iraq whose symptoms began after the battle of Fallujah, the other, a 46-year-old military retiree, whose emotional troubles dated back nearly 2 decades to the first Gulf War. Both had reacted negatively to psychiatric medications but “experienced immediate, significant, and durable relief” from the SGB procedure.


Federal funding is now being sought for further investigation. Meanwhile, Dr. Lipov is seeking Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are suffering from PTSD to participate in a study he is getting underway. Interested parties can call 847-608-6620.


Elsewhere, Dr. Alain Brunet, associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal, who has been involved in PTSD research for more than 15 years, is concentrating now on the effects of an old hypertension medication, propranolol, on trauma disorder.


With Dr. Roger Pitman of Harvard Medical School, Brunet treated a man who developed PTSD symptoms after being smashed on the head with a gun butt during a life-threatening bank robbery. As his symptoms worsened, this victim abandoned hobbies, broke up with a romantic partner, and “felt unsafe whenever he went outside” his house.


The man was told to write a detailed account of the incident. Then during a treatment session, he would re-read the narrative after being given propranolol, which can reduce common symptoms of fear, including a speeded-up heart rate and profuse sweating.


By the fifth treatment, Brunet says, the subject reported feeling “remote” when reading the script rather than highly anxious, emotional, and fearful. Now, 2 years later, he says he remembers the robbery experience but the symptoms of fear and trauma associated with it have not returned.


According to a report in the Wall Street Journal by science writer Shirley Wang, the propranolol therapy is tied to the way current researchers think memories are stored in the brain. Many scientists believe that “memories are stored like individual files on a shelf,” Wang writes. “[E]ach time they are brought down for viewing, they can be altered before being put back into storage. Altering a memory during the time it is off the shelf can create an updated memory that can be saved in place of the old one.”


Propranolol treatment “involves thinking about one’s trauma under the influence of the drug,” explains a report from McGill University. “Propranolol works by partly blocking the emotional component of the trauma memory from being saved again into long-term memory storage while leaving other components of the memory intact.”


Brunet, too, has additional research in progress.



III. Sleep deprivation and gentle reminders have opposite effects on fitness


Two research reports of interest to officers concerned about health and fitness:


1. A study from the University of Chicago reveals that sleep deprivation may inhibit your ability to lose weight, even if you exercise and eat well.


The research shows that restricting sleep to just 4 hours per night—a familiar phenomenon to officers who work rotating shifts and/or extra jobs—can impact even healthy young adults to the point that some develop glucose and insulin characteristics of diabetics, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Inadequate sleep appears to lower the levels of an appetite-regulating hormone in the body (leptin), inducing more eating and weight gain.


2. A study at Stanford University finds that even small amounts of social support, like having a friend phone or email you encouraging reminders, may produce “large and lasting gains” in your commitment to get more exercise.


Researchers estimate that nearly all sedentary people at one time or another have resolved to maintain exercise programs, but failed.


Seeking improvement, Stanford scientists divided 218 volunteers into 3 groups. Some participants got called every 3 weeks for a year by a health educator who asked about their compliance with their exercise goals and to cheer them on with congratulations for any exercise performed. They were asked each time how their exercise level might be boosted in the days ahead and reminded of the importance of resuming their regimen when they lapsed.


Others got calls from a computer programmed to make similar inquiries. A control group got no calls.


After 12 months, the group that received human calls had increased their exercising nearly 80% from where they started. Those with computer contact had doubled their weekly level, while the control group showed only a 28% increase from where they began.


“Social support helps prevent against relapse,” explains Dr. Abby King, the professor medicine and health research and policy who conducted the study. “A light touch can have a lasting effect.”


Says one of the participants: “When you have to report back on what you’ve done, it motivates you.”


This is akin to the buddy system for adhering to a fitness program recommended by Dr. Michael Asken, a psychologist with the Pennsylvania State Police, in Force Science News Transmission #141, which can be accessed by clicking here.



IV. Discounts for Force Science News readers at major training conference


Discounted registration fees are being offered to readers of Force Science News for one of North America’s premier training events, which is being extended this year to encompass a day-long seminar featuring Dr. Bill Lewinski.


The regularly scheduled Legacy of Excellence annual conference will be held Sept. 7-9 in Calgary, Alberta. Lewinski’s presentation, including the latest findings from the Force Science Institute’s ongoing research into officer-involved shootings, will follow on Sept. 10.


You can attend Lewinski’s program only, the 3-day conference proper only, or all 4 days as a package. Reduced rates for all options are available if you mention Force Science News when you register. Pricing details are listed below and registration and more information are available online at:


The conference is organized by popular trainer Brian Willis, a certified Force Science Analyst and deputy executive director of ILEETA (International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Assn. The faculty includes a number of presenters with Force Science connections.


The training sessions scheduled during the 4 days include:


• “Armoring the Brain to Win,” by Force Science Analyst Chris Butler, a staff sergeant with the Calgary Police Service. What research from psychology, neurology, sports science, and other disciplines tell us about training to be resilient and withstand the potentially debilitating effects of traumatic incidents.


• “Unintended Consequences of Well-Intentioned Training,” by Florida force-on-force training expert Ken Murray, an advisor to the Force Science Institute. Why much law enforcement training today is dangerous in itself and fails to prepare officers physically and psychologically for life-threatening challenges—plus how to fix it.


• “Officer Down—Combat Casualty Care,” by Cst. Dan Furman and Cst. Jason Mitchell of Edmonton (Alberta) Police Service. Details of a leading combat-care course developed after Furman was critically wounded by an armed attacker and Mitchell heroically saved his life by responding to his punctured lung and severed brachial artery.


• “Leadership Under Pressure,” by Steven Smith, executive director of the Kansas City Metro Tactical Officers’ Assn. Simple, stress-tested techniques for identifying and training law enforcement and military leaders who can apply winning strategies during high-risk, high-pressure events.


• “The Deadly Mix,” by the FBI-sponsored team of Dr. Anthony Pinizzotto and Edward Davis, faculty members for the certification course in Force Science Analysis; and Shannon Bohrer, range master for the Maryland Police Training Commission. What landmark studies of violent attacks on LEOs have taught us about the lethal motivations of offenders, the vulnerabilities of officers, and how to survive threats to your life.


• “Policing: Achieving Optimal Health Within,” by Brad McNish, medically trained nutritionist and veteran constable with Calgary Police. Practical solutions and tools from “functional medicine” and hard-won personal experience for combatting weight gain, fatigue, and other serious health problems associated with shift work and irregular hours in law enforcement.


• “Street Drug Awareness,” by retired Calgary detective Steve Walton, an authority on undercover operations. Up-to-the-minute information on current drug trends and how they impact LEOs.


• “Life Lessons from Cops on the Street” and “Pursuit of Personal Excellence,” both by Brian Willis, Lifetime Achievement Award winner for contributions to officer safety. Valuable insights about policing and life revealed by veteran officers in Willis’ latest book, If I Knew Then, plus transformative stories of how people who faced incredible challenges and obstacles avoided victim thinking and “dared to soar” with exceptional performance.


• “Human Dynamics of Deadly Force,” by Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of Force Science Institute. What investigators, trainers, and force reviewers need to know to properly interpret and assess human performance and residual memory in life-threatening, controversial encounters, based on the latest research from FSI.


Here are the registration fees, discounted nearly 10% for Force Science News readers:


Full 4 days: $525 (regularly $577)


3-day conference: $435 (regularly $477)


Lewinski’s presentation only: $140 (regularly $154).


US residents will benefit further because these prices are in Canadian funds; currently the stronger US dollar enjoys a more favorable exchange rate. Canadian residents must add 5% for the national GST. The registration fee includes a free lunch daily.



Written by Force Science Institute

June 4th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.