Force Science News #167:

LEO volunteers sought to test new stress-reduction program & more

In this edition:


I. LEO volunteers sought to test new stress-reduction program


II. A question about the danger of desensitizing


III. Readers respond to FS studies of ejected casings and prone suspects


IV. “10 best law enforcement books of all time”



I. LEO volunteers sought to test new stress-reduction program


A trauma counselor experienced in training military veterans to handle combat stress is looking for LEOs and other public safety personnel to help in testing and evaluating a new, easy-to-use, in-home program for improving sleep, reducing stress, preventing stress injuries, and developing resilience.


Volunteers will need to spend at least an hour a week for 4 weeks, at their convenience, listening to an audio presentation of self-applied stress-fighting techniques and noting their experiences in using them. At the end of the test period, each will complete a 1-page, click-in-the-box survey that will help identify potential modifications to the program.


Officers, security forces, EMS personnel, and firefighters—individually or as groups within agencies and regardless of rank or geographic location—are eligible to apply. The test package can be downloaded to a computer, iPod, or MP3 and used discreetly. Participation is confidential and free of charge.


Designer of the program is Angela Benedict, executive director of the Military Healing Center, a Canadian-based organization she founded initially to provide solutions to soldiers who experience emotional distress during combat and disaster duty. Now, she says, she wants to extend the benefits of this “survival training,” which incorporates combat breathing, mental imagery, and meditative thinking, to other front-line responders.


If you are interested in participating in the testing study, contact Benedict directly with a brief explanation of your professional affiliation at:



II. A question about the danger of desensitizing


Periodically, readers contact the Force Science Institute with questions of general interest related to the behavioral sciences and law enforcement. Here’s one such inquiry from Guy Rossi, program coordinator of curriculum development at the Homeland Security Management Institute in Rochester, NY, and a certified Force Science Analyst:


“One of our class counselors who was the recent victim of a police shooting asked me about this situation:


“A recruit jiggles another recruit’s red-handle gun in his holster as a joke/greeting. The counselor sees this and admonishes him about it being an unacceptable social norm among LEOs as such action over time desensitizes an officer’s trained reaction to defend his weapon.


“Do you have any data to back this up?”


FSI’s executive director, Dr. Bill Lewinski, responds:


I don’t know of any study specific to the circumstances you describe, but certainly the research on habit formation, learning theory, and desensitization—as well as common sense and tragic anecdotal experience—are sufficient to tell us that horseplay and guns is a dangerous combination.


Deliberately toying with an officer’s gun is inappropriate and shows a lack of respect for the weapon and its potential lethality. Any officer who does this and any officer who accepts it being done are both guilty of desensitizing themselves to dangerous practices. This should be hard-wired as a part of safe procedures.


By the same token, it’s inevitable in the real world that your firearm may be touched in its holster—innocently—by people who intend you no harm. You may get inadvertently jostled in a fast-food line, or a child on a call may spontaneously hug or touch your gun out of fascination or curiosity, for example. You cannot be so sensitized to “defending” your weapon that you react with blind aggression in such circumstances.


The key is developing a discriminating awareness: You stay protectively conscious of your weapon and its proximity to other people while reading your environment to assure that random, nonthreatening contact receives a response that’s appropriate.



III. Readers respond to FS studies of ejected casings and prone suspects


Two recent Force Science News transmissions—#164 on the danger presented by prone suspects with hidden hands and #165 on the uncertainty of where ejected cartridge cases alight—brought these comments from readers (edited for brevity):


Crossed ankles might slow an attack


It seems from Transmission #164 that a prone suspect has to first move his hips/legs to get the weapon out from under the chest area. Would a strong verbal command (from cover) to “cross your ankles” make it more difficult (and more observable) for the suspect to fire the weapon?


Thank you for your hard and meaningful work. I cannot imagine how many lives you are saving.


Det.-Cmdr. Joe Petrocelli


Training Coordinator


Passaic County (NJ) SD


Dr. Bill Lewinski comments:


You are correct. The vast majority of our subjects started turning from their feet and/or hips to free their hand to fire. If you can get them to comply with a command to cross their legs at their ankles or to spread their feet widely apart, it may start a climate of compliance that could result in their slowing pulling their empty hands out from under their body. At the very least it would make it more difficult for them to spin and fire at an approaching officer.



Cartridge case locations helped clear 2 officers


To be sure, the locations of ejected cartridge cases cannot be used to pinpoint the location of a shooter; however, much of what we do in crime scene reconstruction is a process of elimination, and we most certainly can use the locations of ejected cartridge cases to eliminate possible shooter locations. We can also use the locations of ejected cartridge cases to approximate the location of a shooter (within the constraints of uncertainty in the data) and to correlate the ejected case locations with other available evidence.


I have used cartridge case locations in several federal civil rights cases to establish the probable locations of police officers when they fired at a suspect. In one such case, the ejected cartridge cases were used to determine the approximate locations of two officers who shot and killed a suspect who was pointing a shotgun at them.


The plaintiff’s expert—a forensic pathologist—claimed that the officers shot the man while he was on the ground, an opinion he later revised by labeling the suspect’s posture as a “crouching position.” Through the use of the ejected cartridge case locations and bloodstain pattern evidence that showed the suspect’s location, I was able to correlate the wound paths to prove that the suspect was pointing the shotgun at one of the officers consistent with their testimony.


Due largely to my analysis, the jury deliberated for only 55 minutes before returning a verdict in favor of the officers. Without the ejected casing evidence, this case could not have been reconstructed.


Much more research needs to be done by those with strong backgrounds in physics and mechanics. I think that the research done by Force Science is an excellent start. I am in the process of forming a nonprofit research organization called the Institute for Technical Forensic Science Research to address specifically issues such as these. The research will heavily involve the participation of forensic engineers to address serious issues in the world of crime scene reconstruction.


Michael A. Knox


Chief Forensic Consultant


Knox & Associates, LLC


Jacksonville, FL


Dr. Lewinski comments:


Congratulations on your courtroom victories! Your comment on correlating ejected cartridge case locations “with other available evidence” is of critical importance.


Without additional evidence to corroborate the location of a shooter, a reconstructionist relying solely on where casings were found is making an educated guess, at best. Multiple variables influence where shells land: how the gun was held and manipulated by the shooter, the bounce factor, whether the shell was disturbed after landing, and many others.


Unless seen in the context of bullet trajectories, statements of officers and witnesses, and other pertinent evidence, the location of a casing’s final resting place may be utterly meaningless as a lynchpin clue.


Shells end up in the darnedest places!


Regarding Transmission #165: The mere fact that a pistol cartridge is a very light, small object and can be moved in its post-ejection state by very minor physical force makes it unlikely that the position it was found in at a crime scene was indeed the place it landed. Add to this the eccentric movement caused by the larger weight at the rear containing the primer versus the empty shell in the front, the darn thing can bounce just about anywhere.


As long as a shooting scenario is fairly static and requires little or only linear movement of the shooter, I can surmise predictability for most of the cartridges. But something I observed during more taxing combat-shooting scenarios both in the military and in police service was that many of the expended cartridges land in the folds of a shooter’s clothing and are distributed throughout the shooter’s environment, coming to rest in the strangest places. Sometimes empty cartridges even fall inside shirts and are found in pockets and were not placed there manually.


Regarding Transmission 164: A buddy of mine was shot (luckily he survived) by a suspect who had his hands tucked under his body. It is a scenario many of the more hard-core suspects appear to specifically train for. This suspect (a parolee at large) actually had a homemade holster-like device where he secreted his weapon at chest height to be able to draw and fire with optimum speed.


In my humble opinion this scenario presents one of the biggest challenges to LEO’s, as it would currently be difficult to justify a shooting merely on the suspicion that suspects not willing to give up their hands are preparing to arm themselves and harm the officer or officers. Unfortunately, some of the tactically more savvy suspects know this and count on it when encountering and fighting LEO’s.


Sgt. Albert Schauberger


Los Angeles County SD


Many variables in shell ejection


Fired shell location in relation to where someone may have been has many variables. Quite a list could be made to prove location of the casing has little meaning. Variations in the case rim in relation to the firearms extractor can cause a different path of ejection even than other cartridges out of the same lot number. A slightly bent rim not discernable without measurement aid could also change ejection. This merely scratches the surface of possible variations.


Your extensive experiments have pretty much turned shell casing locations into myths from previously held so-called expert opinions.


John Pepper


Inventor, Pepper Popper target


Bladensburg, MD



IV. “10 best law enforcement books of all time”


The website for Law Officer magazine has posted a list of “The 10 Best Law Enforcement Books of All Time.” Six of the 10 were written by members of the national advisory board of the Force Science Institute.


The list was compiled by nationally known trainer Sgt. Charles Humes Jr. of Toledo, OH. “Unfortunately, few if any departments can or will provide you with the levels of training I’d like to see instilled in all officers,” Humes writes. For those who “pursue the upper echelon of preparatory skills on their own,” he recommends his “A-list” of books as the “best, most affordable option” for professional self-improvement.


The FSI associated authors and their books are: Dr. Alexis Artwohl (Deadly Force Encounters); Dr. Kevin Gilmartin (Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement); and Charles Remsberg (Blood Lessons, Street Survival, The Tactical Edge, and Tactics for Criminal Patrol).


Humes’ full article can be accessed at:



V. Catching up on Force Science developments


The current issue of the ILEETA Digest includes a link to an interview with Dr. Bill Lewinski conducted at POLICE-TREXPO West and to a Q & A article on work of the Force Science Institute that appeared in Police Magazine. If you missed these 2 updates on FSI research, CLICK HERE to catch up.


Lewinski will be among 28 instructors appearing at the upcoming ILEETA training conference, Apr. 11-16. Course list for the conference is found on the ILEETA Web site:



VI. A head trip worth taking


The working of the human brain, the most complicated object in the universe, is a common theme that threads through Force Science News dispatches and the certification course in Force Science Analysis.


If you’re in New York City between now and next Aug. 14, you can learn more about this fascinating organ by spending some time in an unique new exhibition that opened recently at the American Museum of Natural History. Assembled by neuroscientists, “Brain: The Inside Story” is described as “gripping,” “incredible,” and “astonishing.” Enjoy a learning experience you’re not likely to soon forget!




Written by Force Science Institute

January 3rd, 2011 at 2:19 pm

© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.