Force Science News #262:

Tests on controlling resistant suspects show need for fitness scrutiny

Congratulations to the 96 graduates of the most recent Force Science Certification Course in Madison, WI. This outstanding group of newly minted Certified Force Science Analysts proudly represented 59 agencies from 13 states. Well done!

[To watch a NEWS REPORT on the Course click here or visit]


We would like to extend special thanks to the Wisconsin Department of Justice for the generous tuition support they provided for a number of students in the class as well as to the Dane County Sheriff's Office for their excellent logistical support and to the Madison Area Technical College for graciously providing the venue for this course.


Training sidenote: In addition to the on-going influx of current Force Science Research findings and new information that consistently being infused into the Force Science Institute's Certification Courses by our expert instructor team and our researchers, this particular class served as the launch point for a new segment that focuses on critical Force Science principles and human factors issues related to understanding, evaluating and investigating force encounters involving vehicles. Stay tuned for more Force Science Institute developments in this important area.




I. Tests on controlling resistant suspects show need for fitness scrutiny

II. Lewinski invited to address internat'l confab on risk management

III. 3 links worth clicking on

IV. Readers write about "extra" shots...


I. Tests on controlling resistant suspects show need for fitness scrutiny


Researchers at a police college in Norway have confirmed what intuitively seems obvious: an officer's fitness level correlates significantly with his or her ability to control resistant subjects during arrest.


"[O]ne of the most critical and stressful physical tasks" of police work is "getting control of a struggling suspect," writes Thomas Dillern of the Norwegian Police University College, who led the research team. Indeed, "the apprehension of a strongly intractable described as the most commonly occurring maximal physical exertion in the profession," Dillern says, sometimes resulting in serious officer injury or death.


Yet "the relationship between general physical fitness and the ability to cope" with that challenge has been "scarcely examined," Dillern states, until the study by his team.


Their conclusion: All things considered, the data "emphasize the need, and the justification, of implementing monitoring of physical fitness" throughout an officer's career "to ensure the police are capable of performing their job" as they age.


NOTE: Don't miss the sobering observations about the study from Force Science Executive Director Dr. Bill Lewinski near the end of this article.


PHYSICAL RIGORS. Dillern and his researchers selected 19 male volunteers who had completed three years of education at the Police University College, including "mandatory courses related to physical training and arrest handling." After such variables as age and body mass index (BMI) were recorded, the subjects first completed four physical tests and then, within two weeks later, executed takedowns and self-defense tactics against a struggling or aggressive opponent, simulating a resisted arrest.


The physical capability tests, graded on a scale of 0-60 by experienced observers, consisted of:


• a bench press, in which the officers lifted as much weight as they could for one rep, to assess maximum upper-body strength;


• controlled chin ups from a fully extended hanging position, as many times as they could until exhausted, to measure upper-body strength endurance;


• a standing long jump, to evaluate explosive power, and


• a 3,280-yard run without spiked shoes on a standard track-and-field course, testing aerobic capacity and reflecting the exertion that might occur during a foot pursuit.


Dillern explains that large-muscle strength in the upper body is important "especially [for] the pushes and pulls during the apprehension of an intractable subject," making the "the performances in the bench press and the pull up tests...the most influential factors affecting the arrest handling performance." However, to maintain a balanced stance while struggling with a resister, "a higher strength and power capacity in the lower extremities are beneficial" as well.


DEFENSIVE CONTROLS. The arrest-handling tests again consisted of four elements: a one-on-one takedown; a two-officers/one suspect takedown; a struggle in which the officers might have to counterattack an attacking opponent with kicks and punches; and a self-defense exercise in which the volunteers had to free themselves from a variety of strangleholds.


Each of these tests had four levels of difficulty, ranging from little or no actual movement by the suspect role-player up to full-sparring, aggressive and threatening behavior. The officers had to successfully achieve and sustain control of their suspect with empty-hand techniques to the point of handcuffing at a given level before moving up to the next. They were scored according to how far they advanced.


"To the best of our knowledge," Dillern writes, "this is the first study to examine [the fitness] relationship by the use of a real struggling subject to assess the arrest performance."


STRONG RESULTS. "[W]e found a large correlation between police students' general physical capacity and their ability to handle a simulated arrest test," the researchers report. Namely: "[A] higher physical fitness affects the outcome of the arrest situation in a positive manner."


The study also documented a negative correlation between age and both the physical tests and the arrest tests. Dillern terms "disturbing" this finding that as age increases, performance decreases.


An officer typically "spends much of the working day carrying out low-intensity activity, and the occupation is therefore mainly described as sedentary," he writes. However, regularly emerging episodes...are often occurring and can be stressful, critical, and even life threatening for both the officer and the surrounding civilians.


"Even if the major part of the job can be executed independent of a police officer's physical fitness, some tasks still demand a certain level of fitness to be handled, and if the officer is not capable of managing these tasks, it can be questioned if he or she is capable of doing the job at all.


"Consequently, to ensure that officers are capable of performing their job, some minimum requirements of general physical fitness ought to be upheld."


SOBERING OBSERVATIONS. The Force Science Institute was not involved in the Norwegian study, but based on related research FSI has conducted, plus his own professional experiences across a career in law enforcement training, Dr. Bill Lewinski offers some sobering observations on certain of the group's findings.


"The results of the physical capability tests are remarkable," he told Force Science News. "These were the averages among the study subjects: bench press--235 pounds; chin-ups--15; long jump--8 feet 4 inches; time for the roughly two-mile run--11 minutes 53 seconds. The average participating officer weighed 181 pounds and stood just under 6 feet.


"In all likelihood, fewer than 10 per cent of officers upon graduating from any academy in North America would be able to match these performance standards. And from a fitness standpoint, that is when officers tend to be at their absolute peak.


"In one survey of 226 US officers with time on the job, only a minority felt they could 'very well' perform such relatively simple tasks as completing 21 push-ups, negotiating an agility obstacle course, performing 36 sit-ups, sitting and reaching 16 ? inches, and bench pressing their own body weight. And these tests are far less demanding that what the researchers in Norway used.


"In the study of physical exhaustion conducted by the Force Science Institute a few years ago, we found that the average officer's pulse rate hit 180 beats per minute within 20 seconds of all-out exertion, such as would be experienced in a struggle with a resistant suspect. That represents a dramatic stressing of an officer's physical system and capabilities." For more about this study, go to: .


Lewinski suggests that officers reading about the Norwegian study measure their own ability against the physical capabilities tests those researchers used, as cited earlier in this article. "The message for many officers," he says, "will be: 'Get to a gym! Do it now! Don't wait!' "


The Norwegian study, titled "Arresting a Struggling Subject; Does the Forthcoming Police Officer's Physical Fitness Have an Impact on the Outcome?", is reported in full in The Open Sports Sciences Journal. Click here to access it without charge.


II. Lewinski invited to address international confab on risk management


Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute, will be an invited speaker next month at the prestigious international Risky Business Conference in London, England.


According to its organizers, this annual conference series features "some of the highest achievers in high-risk" professions to inspire attendees "to think differently about how [to] manage risk, drive improvement, and harness innovation, teamwork, and leadership."


The conference, sponsored by a collective of medical institutions, including the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London, was launched eight years ago after several young British heart-surgery patients died because of mishaps or poor decisions by personnel working in high-stress, time-pressured environments.


"After these tragedies, medical professionals there decided to explore how people in other stressful, high-risk vocations operate successfully in a crisis atmosphere, to see what could be learned from their experiences and practices," Lewinski told Force Science News.


In his presentation, he will report findings from Force Science research related to police performance under stress and discuss the concept of decision making in very high stress and time-limited circumstances, which is covered in depth in the certification course in Force Science Analysis. Among other things, Lewinski will describe progress being made on "a new model for decision-making in the law enforcement world" that is currently under development at the Institute.


The Risky Business conference will take place at the Kings Place cultural center in London Sept. 11-12, with Lewinski's lecture scheduled for opening day. An audience of more than 400 is expected.


III. 3 links worth clicking on


• Earlier this year, the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police issued what it calls "a national action plan to guide police chiefs in taking proactive measures to mitigate the risk of suicide" by LEOs.


The 35-page document, called "Breaking the Silence: A National Symposium on Law Enforcement Officer Suicide and Mental Health," discusses findings and recommendations about prevention, the role of the police culture, detecting early warning signs, and handling a suicidal event within an agency.


Download this report free at:


• About two years ago, Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, the police-related legal research, reporting, and training organization, began compiling court cases that pertain to electronic control weapons. Its reference collection now contains more than 700 case descriptions. If printed out (not advised!) it would cover nearly 200 pages.


This invaluable resource for police trainers and attorneys can be accessed free at: The treasure-trove database is broken down by federal circuits and is searchable by these key words: asphyxia, cardiac, criminal, delirium, disabled, elderly, experts, extraction, flee, handcuffed, intoxicated, juvenile, mental, pointing (an ECW), pregnant, products liability, and suicidal.


Whatever you might want to know about judicial trends and rationale related to TASERs and other electronic control weapons is likely to be there, just a mouse click away.


• In Force Science News #260 (sent 7/21/14), we reported on an article in the current peer-reviewed journal Law Enforcement Executive Forum that summarizes Force Science's research on "extra" shots that officers may involuntarily fire after deciding to stop shooting in a deadly force confrontation.


The LEEF review can now be accessed in full for a modest fee through the publication's website at: The 16-page article, titled "Police Officer Reaction Time to Start and Stop Shooting: The Influence of Decision-Making and Pattern Recognition," contains information that we did not have space to include in our earlier report.


IV. Readers write about "extra" shots...


In response to FSN transmission #260, which summarized Force Science research about "extra" shots that may be fired by officers during a deadly force confrontation:


Complexity of "stop" indicators makes a difference

This was grand research and I applaud it, but I would suggest there is one item missing from the "extra shots" study.


It is not just the complexity of the situation causing engagement which may impact how quickly an officer is able to stop shooting; it is also the complexity of the stop indicators.


Examples might be: Multiple assailants, an apparent or momentary lull in the action, other involved parties who may not be assailants, partial concealment of the assailants, extreme hot or cold environments, whether bullets have been impacting the cover an officer is using, massive noise of the environment (industrial machinery), and physical fitness of the officers involved which may enhance or degrade physiological response, etc.


I've seen officers on my ranges fail to stop shooting with turning targets during so little stress as a qualification course. When the research continues let's add complexity to the stop-shooting indicators and I suspect we will see stopping times gravitate toward the two- second mark.


Insp. Randy Erwin

New Mexico Rangers

Albuquerque, NM


V. Upcoming: How duty gear impacts your physical performance


A new Force Science report on how the weight of body-worn duty gear affects an officer's speed and mobility has been accepted for publication by the peer-reviewed journal Applied Ergonomics.


The report, titled "The Influence of Officer Equipment and Protection on Short Sprinting Performance," details findings of a study led by Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute.


In the study, Lewinski and his research team found that the weight of duty belt equipment, boots, and a ballistic vest tended to "significantly impair" officers' physical movements in crisis situations, such as edged weapon defense and motor vehicle evasion.


Publication date has not yet been set, but we will report on the study findings and their importance as soon as they are available.


© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.