Force Science News #263:

Touch, TASERs, & Terminology: Our readers sound off

In this issue:

I. Three FSI training notes

II. Touch, TASERs, & Terminology: Our readers sound off

III. Mark your calendar: Upcoming Force Science appearances


I. Three FSI training notes


1. The next Force Science Certification Course is underway. We're pleased to have 115 enthusiastic students in class representing 63 agencies from 13 states and two countries. The entire team at the Force Science Institute looks forward to congratulating them on their successful completion of the course at the end of the week and welcoming them to the global ranks of Certified Force Science Analysts.


2. If you missed it earlier, be sure to check out news coverage and interviews from the recent Force Science Certification Course in Madison, WI. You can click here to see it or visit:


3. The first Force Science Certification Courses scheduled for 2015 have been announced. Here is a list of upcoming courses. Additional FSI Certification Courses will be announced soon.



September 22-26: Alexandria, VA

October 27-31: Columbus, OH

November 17-21: Alexandria, VA

December 15-19: Orlando, FL



January 12-16: Henderson, NV

February 2-6: Seattle, WA

February 23-27: Scottsdale, AZ

March 16-20: Hayward, CA

[April and May courses to be announced soon]

June 15-19: West Jordan, UT


Visit for information on the Force Science Certification Course instructed exclusively by the Force Science Institute and to register. You can also e-mail our training team at:


If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us. Thanks.


--Scott Buhrmaster, Vice President of Operations, Force Science Institute



II. Touch, TASERs, & Terminology: Our readers sound off


Our recent multi-topic issue [Force Science News #261, sent 7/31/14] provoked a robust response from readers. Here's a representative selection of reactions, edited in some cases for brevity and clarity.


Regarding our report on an OIS in Michigan that highlighted the importance of human touch and positive encouragement when dealing with a wounded warrior:


Unconsidered aspect of officer-involved shootings

This article touched on an aspect of OISs that I've often seen, done, and experienced, but never thought about. Great article!


Dr. Bryan Vila

Professor of criminal justice & criminology

Washington State University-Spokane


From an IED survivor

Boy oh boy was this article right about saying the right thing to the wounded! The first Navy corpsman who came to my side after an IED explosion severely injured me in Iraq said, "Hey man, this isn't that bad. I have seen way worse over here. You're going to be fine." EXACTLY what I needed to hear at that moment. It was like my brother had come to let me know something important I hadn't yet truly realized: I wasn't alone, the world hadn't ended, this was just something to work through.


This is absolutely vital information for cops to know, and it applies not just to addressing wounded officers, but citizens as well. I handled a crash where I spoke a few words of comfort to a lady who was just a bit shaken up. Simple stuff--just that the police were there now and we'd make sure she got checked out by the FD and that nothing else bad was going to happen. She wrote the kindest letter to me about that and I have gotten Christmas cards at the PD from her for the past two years. These things truly matter.


Ptl. R. J. Meehan

Libertyville (IL) PD


Grossman request

Wow! I have clipped the article on human touch and filed it away. With your permission, I will put it in the next edition of my book On Combat (still a few years down the road), giving due credit to the source. Keep up the great work!


David Grossman

Lt. Col., US Army (ret.)

Killology Research Group

Mascoutah, IL


Regarding our report of a study about the risk of fire from TASER deployment in an environment saturated with flammable vapors:


Tactical option: Deploy fire extinguishers

Four years ago a TASER was used on a petrol-soaked male in Auckland, who was outside his address threatening suicide with a lighter. Fire was in attendance when three officers approached the suspect, one with the TASER and two with handheld extinguishers.


Upon warning the suspect and firing probes, the two officers opened up with the extinguishers and the suspect was successfully handcuffed. Planning and preparation, if you have time.


Cst. Greg Knight

Police safety & tactical trainer

Aukland, New Zealand


Sparks & vapors don't mix peacefully

The study on TASER discharge in flammable settings was very informative, and the results were what I intuitively knew. TASER discharge always has a spark, and spark + gasoline vapors = ignition. I will be referring our training manager and TASER instructors to this article as it is something we all need to recognize.


Res. Ofcr. Jim Wilson

Redwood City (CA) PD


Regarding a district attorney's recommendation that the term "decontamination" not be used in describing the post-OC clean up process:


OC does contaminate

I disagree with the idea that OC does not contaminate anyone. It does contaminate them with a liquid that is an irritant and causes a burning sensation.


Maybe if there were no effects of OC then you would clean it off like you would wipe up spilled milk. But if the substance is one that causes some effect if you touch, inhale, consume, or otherwise get it on you then I say to clean up you are decontaminating.


Darren Skeries

Training Specialist 2

Iowa DOC

Des Moines, IA


What the dictionary says

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines contaminate: "to soil, stain, corrupt, or infect by contact or association." Likewise the word decontaminate is defined: "Neutralize or remove dangerous substances, radioactivity, or remove germs from" (an area, object, or person). This implies that OC is dangerous.


Any mention of a "decontamination process" in reports implies that the officer had a process that he routinely follows and that he has been trained in the decontamination of suspects exposed to OC spray. Yet many departments, including my own, do not have a set protocol for dealing with suspects exposed to OC spray.


I believe that you cannot fully "decontaminate" exposed suspects because you cannot fully neutralize the effects of OC. Even after the exposed area has been flushed with copious amounts of water, the suspect often continues to feel discomfort.


If after you apply OC spray you allow the suspect to wash his face with a garden hose, then write just that in your report. Use simple language and words that you as the author understand, and can explain down the road. Always remember that when a case goes to jury trial your audience is composed of laypersons who have little to no understanding of cop jargon.


Dpty. Jeff Watson

Use-of-force instructor

San Joaquin County (CA) SO


Revised terminology: political correctness or clarification?

What might appear as a type of political correctness is actually an attempt to help the uninitiated (jurors) better understand what happened. As explained in a very good book by Frank Luntz, It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear, people don't remember the words you use, they remember and act upon the emotion the words created. It's up to you to create a proper emotional picture by employing words and phrases that lead people to an accurate conclusion.


The DA was 100% right. If jurors hear that OC had to be DE-contaminated, then that poor person must have been first contaminated by OC. Since he was in so much pain after being contaminated, how can that be right? Contamination is pervasive and scary. Who wants to be in a contaminated environment, or worse be contaminated themselves?


Using language that is precise in its meaning and intent is actually the opposite of politically correct speech. PC speech serves to gloss over, divert, and deceive. Precise language serves to clarify and provide understanding. Since untrained people, not cops, sit in juries, it makes sense to speak and describe your actions in a manner that gives them the clearest understanding of the events.


George Williams

Training director

Cutting Edge Training, LLC

Bellingham, WA


Misuse of words can be costly

I wholeheartedly agree with the district attorney who disapproved of the use of the term "decontamination." In our respective professions, words matter. Often, something as subtle as the misuse of an emotionally charged term in the wrong setting, such as during a deposition or in the courtroom, can turn the tide of a close case and unnecessarily result in a costly judgment against an officer.


Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers defines "decontamination" as the "freeing of a person or object of some contaminating substance, e.g., war gas, radioactive material, etc." The American Heritage Medical Dictionary similarly defines the term "decontamination" as the "removal or neutralization of a contaminating substance, such as poisonous gas or a radioactive material."


Is this the picture that you want to paint for the public or to a jury? Of course not. To do so is neither wise nor accurate. Choose words wisely--both in your written policies and your training materials as well as in the courtroom.


Asst. Atty. Gen. Stephen Sarnoski

Public Safety Dept.

Hartford, CT


Convey "professional compassion"

Here we term the post-OC process "aftercare" and it's in our policy. It sounds much better in court and in reports if it's inferred that we "care and take care of someone." Be professional, firm, knowledgeable, and forceful if needed, and after it's all over be professionally compassionate and we end up looking as good as possible


Det. John Vandervalk

Anchorage (AK) PD SVU


"More palatable" terminology for juries

I think the advice given by the DA is sound. Sgt. Jim Clark, of the Tulsa (OK) PD and legal section chair for the National Tactical Officers Assn., has for many years advocated the use of SWAT terms that would be more palatable for civil or criminal juries. With his permission, here's a sampling of his suggestions:


Commonly used: Assault

Suggested alternative: Tactical option


Commonly used: Execution

Suggested alternative: Implementation


Commonly used: Explosive entry

Suggested alternative: Breaching


Commonly used: Gas mask

Suggested alternative: Protective mask or chemical agent mask


Commonly used: Kill house

Suggested alternative: Firearms training facility/live-fire house


Commonly used: Neutralize

Suggested alternative: Stop and/or control


Commonly used: Nine principles of war

Suggested alternative: Nine imperative principles


Commonly used: Noise flash grenade (NFG)

Suggested alternative: Flash/sound diversionary


Commonly used: Pain compliance

Suggested alternative: Persuasive compliance


Commonly used: Raid planning

Suggested alternative: Operation planning


Commonly used: Rules of engagement

Suggested alternative: Operational directives


Commonly used: Sniper team

Suggested alternative: Tactical long rifle/observer team


Commonly used: Sniper

Suggested alternative: Long rifleman/tactical precision


Commonly used: Surrender call out

Suggested alternative: Contain and call out


Commonly used: Tear gas

Suggested alternative: Chemical agent or pepper spray


Atty. Scott B. Wood

Certified, Force Science Analysis

Tulsa, OK


Descriptive words shape impressions

As officers, we should know that words do hold a lot of power. The impression you convey when you describe something can change just by what word you use. That's why we have changed from "defensive tactics" to "control tactics." That better describes what we're doing when we use force: controlling the situation. It also gets it out of the officer's mind-set that we are always on the defensive, behind the curve and losing.


Ofcr. Chris Gergen

Waterloo (IA) PD


Education needed on OC reality

We need to educate our criminal justice counterparts by explaining that OC is a less harmful choice, to both the suspect and the officer, than using impact tools or strikes with either hand. The active ingredients in OC are the resins from hot peppers, meant to cause discomfort, not to inflict bodily harm.


Sgt. Dan Danaher

Training coordinator

Livonia (MI) PD


III. Mark your calendar: Upcoming Force Science appearances


These upcoming events offer opportunities to learn more about cutting-edge developments from the Force Science Institute:


Post-shooting guidance for police attorneys

During a special seminar for attorneys who represent law enforcement labor organizations, Dr. Bill Lewinski will appear as a keynote speaker during a "how-to" segment on responding to critical incidents.


Lewinski will explain the cognitive and physiological impact of high-stress, life-threatening confrontations, with particular emphasis on how attorneys can better investigate and understand the decision-making process involved in shooting encounters and thereby better serve their officer clients when their actions come under scrutiny.


His presentation, on Oct. 23, is part of a three-day Attorney Seminar sponsored by the National Assn. of Police Organizations (NAPO) at the Red Rock Casino and Resort in Las Vegas. NAPO describes Lewinski as "the country's foremost expert on the psychology and physiology of a critical incident."


For more information, CLICK HERE.


Updated insights on memory for police psychologists

The same week as his NAPO appearance, Lewinski will describe Force Science's latest research on post-shooting memory at a meeting of the Psychological Services Section at the annual conference of the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police in Orlando, FL.


Among other things, Lewinski will explain updated thinking on why an officer's memory may be impaired after a deadly force encounter. In simple terms, some professionals believe this results from "emotional suppression" caused by the impact of fear and adrenaline, but a more modern interpretation, Lewinski argues, lies primarily with an officer's focus of attention during a dangerous event.


According to Section officials, there was "very strong" competition to present at this year's meeting. When all proposals were reviewed blindly by a selection committee, Lewinski's was "among the highest rated."


His appearance will be at 2:30 pm Oct. 25 at the Orange County (FL) Convention Center. For information on the full agenda for the IACP Conference, CLICK HERE














© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.