Force Science News #28:

FS News Readers Respond to Suicide Bomber Report + 1st International

FSRC Seminars Set for London

In this issue:


I. 1st International FSRC Seminars Set for London


II. Miss a Transmission? Check out the FS News Archives


III. FS News Readers Respond to IACP Suicide Bomber Report





The first international seminars to report on the dramatic findings about armed confrontations from the Force Science Research Center are scheduled for Oct. 6-7 and Oct. 10-11 in London, England.


The presentations, sponsored by the Constables Branch Board of the London Metropolitan Police Federation, will be held at the Army-Navy Club in London. The federation represents more than 24,000 British constables. Officers, trainers, administrators and legal representatives from throughout the United Kingdom are expected to attend, as well as some from continental Europe and the United States.



The first day of each program will feature Dr. Bill Lewinski, FSRC’s executive director, reporting on the Center’s unique discoveries regarding the human dynamics of lethal-force encounters. He’ll also explain the growing role of this research is playing in resolving controversial officer-involved shootings.


The second days’ material, focusing on emotional recovery from and investigation of critical incidents, will be presented by Dr. Alexis Artwohl, a prominent authority on police psychology and a member of FSRC’s National Advisory Board.


For more information, email


Lewinski is currently consulting with British authorities in an effort to unravel the facts in a high-profile shooting by 2 London officers that has been under investigation for 6 years. Recently the London Metropolitan Police Federation made a substantial research grant to the Center, located at Minnesota State University-Mankato.





The Force Science News Archives house all the back issues that have been transmitted beginning with the first, sent Sept. 17, 2004. The archive system allows you to either list all issues by number/date or to search for a keyword.


Here’s how to get there:


1. Go to:


2. Click on “Search Archive” (5th option from the top on the left side of the page)


3. Here you will see two options: “Search the past issues” with an empty box where you can enter a specific keyword, then hit “Submit” or “VIEW ALL” which retrieves a list of all past issues. To view an issue in the list, simply click on the title.


At this 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY of Force Science News, we want to thank you for being a reader and for spreading the word to others. Much more to come in the years to follow!


As we head into this week’s Force Science News Mailbag, now’s a good time to check out the archives if you missed the recent 2-part series exploring the IACP “learning keys” that suggest ways to handle suicide bombers. The transmission numbers to click are #26 and #27.




The email in-box at Force Science News was flooded with vigorous responses to our recent 2-part series on guidelines for dealing with suspected suicide bombers published by the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police.


Reactions to the recommendations authored for the IACP by terrorism expert Robert Bunker, PhD, ranged from enthusiastic acceptance to scathing rejection.


Here’s a representative sampling, edited for clarity and length.




For those who may have missed the series in question:


Part 1:


Part 2:



I believe that the law enforcement response to suicide bomber threats will be one of hard, deadly lessons before there is public acceptance of appropriate “shoot to kill” guidelines. There will also be hard decisions about the role of law enforcers and how law enforcement is trained in the upcoming years.


Most officers today do not have the skills or mind-set to address the threat of a committed suicide bomber or terrorist attack. In fact, there has been a conscious attempt at selecting these kinds of officers out in many departments.


The possibility of an even greater threat of trained, armed, and committed violence exists with a very small number of our returning veterans from the present conflicts overseas, who find themselves unable or unwilling to integrate back into society and instead choose to use their combat-honed skills either in the commission of crime or in response to severe mental and emotional distress. We have already had several such incidents occur across the country.


The same administrations, policies, and officers who are unable to cope with terrorists will be unable to cope effectively with these threats as well until there is a recognition that in some few cases the “playing field” has changed and we are facing adversaries who are trained, organized, and have prior real-world combat experience upon which to draw.


Officer Chris Leblanc

Vancouver (WA) PD



There are two obvious and major problems with Bunker’s approach to stopping a suicide bomber.


1. Philosophical–In 2005, I suspect that optimistically only one in five officers would shoot first in even a hostage situation. In 100 bomber scenarios, maybe in only 1-2% of the time would an officer have enough information to act and be emotionally prepared to make the shot that Bunker recommends.


2. Practical–We are not putting people on the street with the skills to make a head shot. For every officer who is emotionally prepared to take the shot, maybe only 10% have the skills to deliver it accurately. So Bunker’s approach may work in one out of 500-1,000 events–and that is optimistic.


Dr. Bunker’s approach, while sounding like active problem solving, is at its kindest–naive.


Sp. Agt. Leo Shepherd (ret.)




I am a former police officer (7 years’ experience) who is now an experienced (23 years) civil litigator who handles “police misconduct” liability matters. I will labor mightily to discourage our police department from adopting these dangerous guidelines for a number of reasons.


Take a quick look at how the national community responded to the 9/11 incident. In the face of a perceived threat of hijackings at the hands of those drawn from the identical profile pool set forth in the IACP article–[Middle Eastern] males 16 to 40 years old, perhaps with a smattering of 16 to 25-year-old females–America insisted upon putting the entire populace (including an octogenarian Medal of Honor winner) through all kinds of ridiculous hassles at our airports in order to avoid accusations of racial profiling (and continues to do so to this day!).


Against that backdrop, how do you think the nation will respond to the police using those identical criteria as a means of narrowing the field of potential persons who should be considered subject to summary curbside execution? Not favorably, I would predict. This is a strong indicator that American society is not ready to have its municipal police officers cruising around looking for folks who fit some kind of vague (if fairly accurate) profile, with an eye toward then deciding whether of not to shoot some hapless individual who appears to “fit” it in the head!


The author claims that the mere threat of the use of a bomb would suffice to justify deadly intervention. I take issue with that, particularly within the context of the vague and ambiguous profile indicia which have been set forth! Secondly, I question the author’s legal reasoning when he counsels us that “An officer need only determine that the use of deadly force is objectively reasonable under the circumstances.”


The objective reasonableness determination is not one which is made by an officer in the field! Rather, it is a determination which is made after the fact, when triers of fact are given all of the information which was available to the officer at the moment he or she made a use-of-force decision, and decides whether the option chosen by the officer was objectively reasonable under those circumstances. Woe be to the officer who thought that s/he was being reasonable, only to learn later that the community, in the form of civil or criminal jurors, disagrees!


As a legal professional who is tasked with advising my clients on the avoidance of unnecessary exposure to civil liability, I heartily recommend that law enforcement professionals treat this IACP article for what it really is: a cursory, amateurish, and superficial attempt to expound on a complex legal and social problem, and one likely to create more problems than it solves.


Atty. James F. Wilson

City of Sacramento, CA



Various medical devices worn by citizens, such as insulin- and heart-monitoring devices, could easily be misidentified as part of a suicide bomb. I seriously doubt if my agency or the local political types would allow the implementation of the recommended policy changes.


Sr. Dep. Charles Bass

Los Angeles County (CA) S.D.



Taken on its face, the Suicide Bomber Profile presented by Dr. Bunker also describes behaviors and characteristics of persons with developmental disabilities such as autism, Tourette’s syndrome, cerebral palsy or epilepsy, mental illness, traumatic brain injury, obsessive compulsive disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions that may affect a person’s cognitive abilities. Persons with these conditions often have no control of the behaviors and characteristics they display.


Without training to recognize these conditions, the potential increases for good law enforcers to misjudge what they are seeing and hearing during field interactions. Dr. Bunker’s SBP and articles add to that potential.


Dennis Debbaudt

Police trainer and private detective

Port St. Lucie, FL



How the 4th Amendment, which governs officers’ use of deadly force, is applied will likely be based, in my opinion, on how threatened the American people feel at the time of the criminal or civil trial. Right now, before anyone has been hurt by a bomber (9/11 is too far in the past to be real anymore to most Americans) and with most of the U.S. population sleeping, if the officer made the “right” decision and shot an actual bomber, then there will likely be very little chance of a trial going forward. However, if the officer was reasonably mistaken and shot an unarmed person, a civil trial is probably assured, especially if a large settlement was not forthcoming. The resulting publicity would likely guarantee that few officers would chance shooting the wrong person in the future.


Following the first mass-casualty incident, or wave of incidents, the public MAY be more tolerant of mistakes. However, it is probably safe to say that the press and a vocal minority will not be and the firestorm of negative publicity nationally and internationally will likely wilt all but the strongest officers.


Still, a jury convicting an officer, or voting for an adverse award against an officer in the wake of real fear and the officer’s good though mistaken judgment is unlikely…juries enforce the law through their verdicts, and jury nullification or sympathy for the fact that we are under attack and with body bags being filled will probably be seen.


Will officers, today take the shot on a guess that the guy is carrying a bomb? I’d have to say no. Without hard information, the reality of this type of attack is just not at the forefront of most officers’ minds. What is certain are the negative consequences following a deadly mistake, and without a climate of fear based on American civilians being slaughtered, all but a hardcore few officers will not react to Dr. Bunker’s guidelines. I think very few Chiefs will change policy to reflect his thinking as well.


I do believe that a Beslan-style takeover with enormous casualties will inevitably occur at some point…and probably with similar results if the terrorists are as well-trained and armed as the Chechen-led Beslan terrorists. With a possible combination of our porous border and homegrown extremists, we are likely to see an outrage that will equal or exceed the shock and grief of 9/11. At that point, while no repeal of the 4th Amendment is likely (or desirable), the American public will forgive mistakes by police, and preemptive shots at suspected bombers may be forgivable.


There is some good information in Dr. Bunker’s paper, but the tactical issues within a law enforcement context are not, in my opinion, practical.


George T. Williams, Director of Training

Cutting Edge Training, LLC

Bellingham, WA



I really like the recommendations outlined in the article. After reading this report, I will start to incorporate shooting drills with an emphasis on head shots instead of center mass.


Constable Rom Ranallo

Vancouver (BC) PD



The reality of any officer making an accurate head shot with a handgun at any distance on a moving suspect is sure nonsense. For over a decade, I directed all firearms training for LAPD. We have long had head shot requirements at 12 yards or less in our firearms qualification course. Yet the majority of our officers have a difficult time making a head shot during qualification on a course they have been training on for years without the stress of a bomb-laden suspect as their target. Many times the head shots they make are marginal at best and most probably would not stop a determined suspect.


If IACP is going to promote this concept they should try it.


Sgt. Lou Salseda

Los Angeles (CA) PD



In non-stressed situations on immobile targets, outside of about 21 feet, I have continually observed officers miss “Q” targets, let alone the head zone, with their service pistols. Even with patrol rifles I would hesitate to have the “average officer” attempt a head shot outside 15-20 yards.


Ptlm. Daniel Brady

Burlington (VT) P.D.



Those of us who have coordinated major events (Olympics, etc.) since 9/11 have been using a use-of-force policy similar to what Dr. Bunker is now espousing, so it is not new to many agencies. When I coordinated security for the Maccabee Games (Jewish Olympics) in Baltimore, we were briefed by Israeli terrorism experts who actually developed these counter-suicide bomber tactics. They have become widely accepted, particularly by the tactical community.


The IACP recommendations that many Chiefs are now adopting as policy are actually a step in the right direction for officer safety, and political survival in the event that a Suicide-by-Cop suspect posing as a Suicide Bomber is killed as a result. The public and political administration would have already been prepped for the LE response, and the aftermath would certainly be less controversial. At least the people out in the field now have some direction.


The “shoot to kill” policy is somewhat dramatic and serves no more purpose than what is largely accepted (Federal or Local) as shoot to incapacitate. Even our Snipers are in fact shooting to incapacitate. Stopping the threat is the primary mission. If death occurs as a result that is not the mission or concern of the operator.


The head shot/contact shot at a downed or restrained combative suspect is a viable and practical option that many in the LE firearms instructor community were unaware of until the IACP report brought it to light. Contact wounds have been extremely effective in the field.


I have already had firearms instructors ask me what courses are available that incorporate head shots, a result of the IACP report. If the head shot becomes a qualification mandate, administrators will have to increase training budgets, and might also have to remove unqualified people from service. There are limits when dealing with the skill proficiency of the average field officer/agent, and it will take more than a policy to alter that level.


Instructor George “Butch” Rogers

Federal Law Enforcement Training Center

Cheltenham, MD



Training your average police officer to make the tactical, precision head shot recommended for a suicide bomber is a monumental task. Even in the countries that have the most experience in dealing with this type of attack, the bomber usually gives responders no time to create the recommended stand-off distance, set up a sniper and take the needed shot.


The more pressing training need is to create an awareness among our officers that upon recognition of a threat the area must be evacuated and cover obtained. I can’t imagine a bomber allowing such an evacuation to occur. Still, it must be attempted to save as many as possible.


Getting close enough to the bomber to initiate an accurate head shot is critical and must be taught. Just as the mind-set of containment was changed to allow for active shooter scenarios, so must we adjust to this new threat. IACP’s recommendations are the current reality we must face if we are to provide any measure of safety and security for our citizens.


PFC Jerry MacCauley

Training officer, West Palm Beach (FL) P.D.



Even with a properly placed head shot from an appropriate weapon, ambulation after death can still result in the suicide bomber triggering the device. With head shots not 100% effective 100% of the time, even by the most highly trained officers, I doubt communities can be expected to adopt the “new mentality” of “shoot to kill head shots” as acceptable.


Lt. Jim Kahler

Firearms Instructor, Prince George’s Co. (MD) DOC



Regarding the claim that under “Federal laws and rulings” you can shoot if you have a reasonable belief that a suspect is capable of detonating a bomb, without needing to wait for him or her to actually make a move or take “other action potentially sufficient to carry out the bombing:” That recommendation is nothing more than go-to-jail talk.


Agent Tim Houghtaling (ret.)

Immigration and Naturalization Service

Detroit, MI



You need to remove the phrase “shoot to kill” from your vocabulary. Justifiable Lethal Force, Instantaneous Incapacitation” or Immediate Neutralization of a Threat are much preferable and easier to explain in court.


Inv. Eric S. Kennard

Office of the State Attorney

Viera, FL



If an officer has a “reasonable basis to believe that the suspect has the capability to detonate a bomb,” then wouldn’t the action of walking toward the target be an overt act of imminent threat? The weapon in this case is already “drawn and ready,” which is more dangerous than a handgun tucked into the waistband with the suspect is reaching toward it or tugging on it. After all, we do not require officers to wait until they see a suspect pulling the trigger of a firearm before defending themselves or others.


As a U.S. LEO, it is our function and intent at this point to STOP the crime from being committed. Killing the person is not the point. I believe that having the intent to kill as a U.S. LEO could result in extreme jury liability, especially in this case if it were the “wrong person.”


The point is to stop the suicide bomber from completing actions that would cause death or serious bodily injury. We understand ballistics and that putting a .223-caliber round from an AR-15 through the nose of a suspect has a very low likelihood of survival. If the suspect dies from being shot, it is a result of reasonable tactics that a police officer was forced to deploy to immediately STOP the suspect’s threatening actions.


Sgt. Ed Flosi

Research and Development Unit

San Jose (CA) P.D.



I predict that the first officer who shoots someone who appears to be a suicide bomber and isn’t will find himself a participant in a very interesting experience with the criminal justice system.


I hope that it does not take a successful suicidal bomb attack here to make our criminal justice system see the wisdom contained in the IACP’s Training Keys.


Lt. Edward B. DeVennish

Columbus (OH) P.D. Intelligence Section



Quit your frickin’ whining. There has only been one mistaken shooting of a mistaken suicide bomber.


SFC Fred Killian

Howell Township (NJ) PD



My agency is not ready to adopt this type of engagement tactic nor do most officers have the skill required to carry it out. I think several successful bombings would have to take place before any agency would even consider these tactics.


Sgt. J. Sferruzza

Wayne Township (NJ) PD



I don’t think our administration has given a second thought to possible terrorist activities in our jurisdiction, except pro forma attendance at Counter-Terrorism meetings. Pre-supposing that the guidelines were adopted, our boys and girls would follow them, but the response of our political leadership is problematic, as they constantly have their heads in the sand and their fingers testing the wind!


We must adapt to the changed circumstances. This is how the world is today. Sadly, I think it will take several domestic suicide incidents before the problem is seriously addressed.


Dpty. John Langan

Juniata County (PA) SD



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Written by Force Science Institute

September 23rd, 2005 at 4:10 pm

© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.