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
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
–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
–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, www.forcescience.org. Reprints
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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.