Force Science News #34:

You Can Help Force Science in New Officer Survival Research

As the Force Science Research Center prepares to launch a variety of new

research projects for 2006 related to officer survival, Executive Director

Dr. Bill Lewinski is asking for your input in 2 important areas:



1. He’d like to interview offenders who have shot LEOs, either fatally or

nonfatally. He’s looking for names and current locations of these

individuals and for suggestions or assistance on how best to contact them.

They can be incarcerated or on the street, and the interviews can be done



Lewinski wants to explore the familiarity with weapons that these

individuals had prior to their attacks on officers: how experienced were

they with guns…how much did they practice…where did they receive formal

training, if any, and how extensive was it…had they previously used a

firearm, and so on.


He also wants to discuss the types of behavioral or observational cues they

may have picked up on from the targeted officers that prompted them to

shoot and to believe they would not be shot in the process.


With special equipment that is being developed, he anticipates being able

to study the reaction time of these offenders for comparison to previous

studies of officer reaction time in life-threatening confrontations.


Data gathered in the interviews and testing will be used in a

ground-breaking study of hit probability described in greater detail below.


If you know of living offenders who’ve shot peace officers, please send

information on who they are and where and how they might be reached to:


2. If you attend the SHOT Show Feb. 9-12 at the Las Vegas (NV) Convention

Center, stop by the LaserMax booth and experience the latest simulator

technology provided by IES Interactive Training. In particular, FSRC

invites you to fire at a special target resembling a human subject and

designed to test psychomotor skills and accuracy in an atmosphere of

minimal stress where no judgment is required.


Data recorded here, too, will be used in the hit probability study. “We

need input from officers and civilian attendees alike, regardless of their

experience and skill level,” says Lewinski. “By participating you’ll have

the satisfaction of contributing to research that ultimately will help save

officers’ lives.”


Lewinski be in the booth to guide your shooting, along with internationally

recognized firearms trainer Ron Avery, president and training director of

the Practical Shooting Academy Inc. and executive director of the nonprofit

Rocky Mountain Tactical Institute. Working with Lewinski, Avery, a member

of FSRC’s Technical Advisory Board, is spearheading the hit probability



This study, Phase One of which will officially get underway next month

[1/06], will “scientifically document the chances of officers and offenders

alike hitting a target when rapidly firing a handgun from different

positions at different distances,” Lewinski explains. “The goal of Phase

One is to identify the threat to an officer from a subject wielding a

handgun from hidden or gun-down positions.


“Other phases will focus on officer/offender hit probabilities and the

types of training, psychomotor skills, behavior and activities that

facilitate both speed and accuracy and that have the greatest probability

of helping an officer to win a lethal-force encounter.”


Among other things, the research team is expected to explore complex

questions that have long nettled trainers and officers, including:


–What officer responses and/or countermeasures would best neutralize or

mitigate the threat presented by a subject wielding a firearm?


–At arm’s length or just beyond, would active physical countermeasures vs.

retreating be more effective? If so, what strategies and countermeasures

lead to a higher probability of success?


–How does shooting on the move vs. standing still at various distances

affect officer survival? Are there distances where it is better to simply

stand your ground and shoot or run to cover and shoot vs. shooting on the

move? What are the trade offs and hit probabilities?


–What training and activities lead to greater effectiveness and hit

probabilities in lethal-force encounters?


–What are officer hit probabilities on head shots at various distances

under real world conditions? Are we expecting officers to do things they

are not trained or prepared to do or that have a very low probability of

success? What equipment and training are necessary to accomplish this kind

of precision shooting by the average officer?


With the help of LE training facilities, such as Northeast Wisconsin

Technical College, which has one of the foremost CJ programs in the nation,

the researchers plan to assess the accuracy rates of academy classes before

they have weapons skills training. “Once we have this data as a base,”

Lewinski explains, “we can then measure the impact of different training

methods on officer safety techniques.”


The hit probability study is one of a wide variety of interrelated research

projects Lewinski hopes to fund through a $1,000,000 federal grant applied

for by FSRC. Dr. Scott Olson, a member of FSRC’s National Advisory Board

and VP of academic affairs for Minnesota State University-Mankato where the

Center is headquartered, has been “coaching” the grant proposal through the

tricky labyrinth of bureaucratic hoops and FSRC is optimistic of a positive

result early in the new year.


“This money would greatly accelerate our research into ways to help

officers make accurate decisions and perform flawlessly in life-threatening

confrontations so that innocent citizens will remain safe and the involved

officers will survive unharmed.”


FSRC has a number of valuable projects on tap, awaiting this or other

funding. Examples:


–In earlier studies, FSRC measured 15 different subject movements and 20

different types of officer counter moves characteristic of lethal force

encounters. These have been instrumental in documenting reaction times and

in explaining numerous controversial shooting situations.


Now FSRC would like to more deeply explore the nature and limits of “human

mechanical performance in highly dynamic, rapidly unfolding,

life-threatening confrontations.” This will involve more precise

identification and measurement of movement through live range fire and the

use of FSRC’s state-of-the-art IES simulator and multiple high-speed

cameras that allow unique 3-D imaging and analysis.


–A variety of “scan patterns”–the sequences through which officers

evaluate a setting and a subject–”need to be assessed for their

effectiveness in helping an officer determine and assess a potential threat

and react to it,” Lewinski explains. “Some suspects can draw a gun from a

waist band and fire in less than 1/10 of a second. Officers can’t afford

time delays. Research has to help them develop effective patterns for

scanning and recognizing threats to assure the fastest detection and

response possible.”


–Through testing with electroencephalographic (EEG) equipment, Lewinski

wants to research how an officer’s mind-set affects speed, accuracy and

judgment in a lethal-force encounter. “There have been theories and

speculation about the most effective mind-set for quick reactions and good

decision-making, but there hasn’t been any scientific research in this

area,” Lewinski says.


–He also wants to study how light conditions and pre-event information

impact on an officer’s perception, judgment and reaction time.

“Once more is known about the nature of different threats and an officer’s

options for responding to them, the value of specific tactics can then be

tested and assessed,” Lewinski says.


With ideal funding and staffing, these projects could take at least 2 years

to complete. “But this research has the potential to finally set a gold

standard for the effective training and performance of law enforcement

officers when making life-and-death decisions. The results would have

repercussions throughout our society and the world.”


Meanwhile, the Officers Branch Board of the London (England) Metropolitan

Police Federation has donated nearly $100,000 to support 2 new studies

scheduled to begin early in 2006.


One will determine the impact of training and experience on an officer’s

ability to successfully multi-task. Specifically, researchers will try to

determine how officers can best work through the tunnel vision and tunnel

hearing without becoming so exclusively focused on either that their safety

is jeopardized. This study will be headed by Dr. Jonathon Page, a cognitive

psychologist at Minnesota State University-Mankato and a member of FSRC’s

Technical Advisory Board.


Page will also consult on the second study drawing on the Federation’s

donation. This will attempt to determine the effect of training on

perception, memory and a variety of other factors in lethal and nonlethal

encounters. Among other things, the researchers will investigate what type

of interviewing techniques seem most effective in jogging memory and

recovering facts after a deadly force confrontation.


Other researchers participating in this study will include Dr. Robert

Widner, a psychology professor at MSU-M; Dr. Alexis Artwohl, an independent

LE trainer and former psychologist with the Portland (OR) Police Bureau;

and Dave Karwaski, a retired deputy sheriff and firearms instructor now on

the faculty of MSU-M’s law enforcement program. All are also affiliated

with FSRC’s advisory boards.


“We’re looking forward to an exciting and productive New Year,” Lewinski

says. “To all the readers of Force Science News who support and are

interested in the work of FSRC, here’s wishing you the best of the

holidays…and a safe and successful 2006!”



(c) 2005: Force Science Research Center, Reprints

allowed by request. For reprint clearance, please e-mail: FORCE SCIENCE is a registered trademark of The

Force Science Research Center, a non-profit organization based at Minnesota

State University, Mankato.



Written by Force Science Institute

December 19th, 2005 at 4:20 pm


© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.