Force Science News #37:
Readers Who’ve “Been There” Scorn PARC’s Guidelines for
Responses from your fellow Force Science News members to Transmission #36 [1/20/06] were fast and emphatic.
Those who emailed us strongly took issue with the recommendations of PARC (Police Assessment Resource Center) for how to interview officers after a shooting.
PARC, a controversial, nonprofit “oversight” organization that is gaining
influence in LE circles, advocates treating surviving officers essentially
like suspects and subjecting them to interrogations/interviews as quickly
after a life-threatening confrontation as possible to prevent them from
colluding with others to distort what happened.
In contrast to PARC’s “philosophical” position, says Dr. Bill Lewinski,
executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State
University-Mankato, the letter writers’ views are based largely on
extensive, first-hand experience which, in his opinion, has yielded some
“Over a century of scientific research on memory directly contradicts
PARC’s position,” Lewinski told Force Science News. “The vast experience of
professionals who’ve dedicated their lives to researching the best ways to
investigate officer-involved shootings does not support the PARC approach.
“In fact, following PARC’s recommendations will result in an officer being
able only to incompletely report information on his or her situation, which
will then compromise the officer’s integrity, the department’s ability to
investigate the incident and accurately report on it to the community, and
the ability of both the officer and department to later defend themselves
“To cite just one example, even the most basic psychology textbooks teach
that recognition facilitates recall, and memory is better recalled in the
environment in which it was formed. This is because familiar ‘prompts’ that
the officer encounters there will jog his accurate recollection.
“That’s why revisiting a shooting scene and ‘walking through’ the
experience again in a supportive, non-interrogative atmosphere is so
important in thoroughly mining the involved officer’s memory.
“Yet this and many other solidly based techniques are ignored or criticized
by PARC, whose goal seems to be to skewer officers on information they
can’t recall or inconsistencies between what they do recall and other
forensic or witness reports.”
More light will be shed on this issue after completion of a new research
project by FSRC that will start next summer, funded by the Constables
Branch Board of the London Metropolitan Police. This study will investigate
specifically the most effective times and methods for reliably tapping an
officer’s memory after a critical incident, Lewinski says.
Meantime, here’s a representative sampling of what FSN members thought of
PARC’s guidelines, as they were reported in Transmission #36. Some letters
have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
EMOTIONAL FIRST RECALL OF SHOOTING LEAVES OFFICER UNCERTAIN OF ACCURACY
It is sad to see that an organization identified as a Police Assessment
Resource Center has taken this view regarding officer-involved shootings. I
have been teaching this subject for 10 years. Every professional resource I
have found reinforces my belief that officers should have a period of
mental stabilization following a critical incident. This period is not just
for the officer’s well being, but to ensure that the officer’s emotional
and physical turmoil does not interfere with the truth.
Two years ago I was involved in a fatal shooting. While I (in agreement
with my attorney) gave a statement that same night, I would never have
given a statement immediately after the incident. Nor would my first
statement have been a taped interview with an investigator.
The first time I gave my statement was to my attorney in confidence. The
only way I can describe the experience is to say that it was like throwing
up; I could not have stopped myself. The physical and emotional reactions I
experienced were as devastating as my experience during the incident. In
fact they may have been even greater as I was in a safe environment and my
life did not depend on my ability to maintain control and respond. It left
me crying, shaking, and numb. I cannot recall what I said or didn’t say
during the initial interview and have no way of attesting to its accuracy.
I can testify that my statement was affected by my emotional and physical
state. I would never recommend to an officer or an investigator that a
statement be made under such conditions.
Senior Officer Richard Holt
Rapid City (SD) P.D.
PARC “LEFT-WING, MEDIA-DRIVEN” ORGANIZATION WITH AN “ODIOUS NOTION”
I was alone in my den while I read Transmission #36 and began yelling
intermittently at the computer screen, “YEEESSS!! ………ALRIGHT!!” I am
elated that someone else has questioned not only PARC’s findings but their
motives. I too have, for some time, been quite dubious concerning their
off-the-wall recommendations, and it is always gratifying to have one’s
inherent conclusions validated.
I teach “Conducting Police Officer Involved Shootings” for the IACP, PATC
(Public Agency Training Council) and the Taylor Group
(www.taylorgroup.net). Recently I presented my 3-day course in Portland and
Seattle. Many of those in attendance cited elements of the PARC Portland
Police Bureau report as the “proper” way to conduct POI shooting
investigations and argued with me that some of my methods were outdated and
unacceptable. I had never heard of PARC and was frankly somewhat appalled
by what was being embraced as “correct procedure.”
Upon returning home I conducted some research and quickly came to the same
basic conclusions about PARC as those detailed in your article. First, that
PARC is a predominately left-wing organization, that it is media driven,
and that it is not police-friendly.
Secondly, that they have successfully bamboozled government officials and
police department brass into believing that adherence to their principles
will provide protection for their cities and agencies from litigation and
Particularly odious is the notion that officers must be constantly
prevented from conspiring to lie about the shooting…the implication being
that, if allowed, they will fabricate everything. Not only that, PARC
implies that safeguards must be put in place to ensure that the homicide
investigator does not participate in the deception.
I have investigated dozens and dozens of police shootings and agree
wholeheartedly with your assessments. Police officers are reluctant
protagonists in any shooting incident. No officer gets up in the morning as
says, “I think I’ll kill someone today…that would be exciting.” Officers
who shoot and kill are not murderers. They are quiet heroes who do exactly
what society expects them to do in exceedingly trying situations.
Thank you for recognizing the difficulties and complexities of police work.
Sgt. Tony Monheim (ret.)
Miami-Dade P. D., Homicide Bureau
PARC’S “BEST PRACTICES” NOTHING MORE THAN “UNSUBSTANTIATED HUNCHES”
I have investigated over 300 police shooting incidents during the last 7
years and agree whole-heartedly with the position advocated by the Force
Science Research Center as to when, and the manner in which, an officer
should be interviewed following a shooting.
The PARC group is clearly out of touch with the dynamics involved.
Unfortunately, too many police monitors/watchdog groups refer to PARC’s
so-called “best practices” recommendations as the gospel truth, when in
fact they are nothing more than unsubstantiated hunches.
Lt. Steve Nolan
Philadelphia P.D., I.A.D. Shooting Team
RECOMMENDATION WOULD “SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE ANGER & FRUSTRATION”
I strongly disagree with PARC’s bizarre recommendation that officers
involved in shootings (especially where a death occurred) should be
interrogated immediately. If officers anticipate such utterly
uncompassionate treatment, they may very well avoid precisely the
situations we most need for them to be involved in.
I have been involved in law enforcement psychology for over 50 years and
have been a member of the Psychological Services Section of IACP for about
20 years. I have personally seen at least 100 officers involved in
The engine often driving the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
in such officers is commonly powered by unrecognized anger which has no
appropriate outlet or forum for exploration. The PARC recommendation would,
in my view, significantly increase that underlying anger and frustration to
the severe detriment of the officers involved.
The PARC recommendation sounds exactly like what it probably is: a shoring
up of a platform for later litigation against officers and their
departments, with little or no concern about the welfare of the officers
who, in my experience, hardly ever anticipated their role in a shooting
In some cases I recall, departments which dealt with officers in OIS
incidents with the PARC style of cynicism, lack of support and suspicion
frequently ended up losing those officers to early job-related disability
Even a 48-hour delay in interrogation will help officers, especially if
some appropriate support is provided. It is true that the officers may have
time to “get their stories straight.” But in my experience, the stories are
“straighter” because details are recalled, not because of collusion.
Self-anointed “monitors” and “experts” should not be allowed to undermine
the years of effort and expertise which have been devoted to lessening the
impact upon police officers of life-threatening (or, if necessary,
Irving B. Guller, Ph.D.
Director, The Institute for Forensic Psychology
CIVILIANS IN JUSTIFIED SHOOTINGS MAY SUFFER SAME EFFECTS AS OFFICERS
Garrity issues certainly come into play [after an officer-involved
shooting] and, for the most part, any LE agency that pressures an officer
to give a statement is likely to be left with nothing, even to the point of
possibly tainting the entire investigation.
Beyond that, there’s the issue of interviews of a shooter (or even a
witness, possibly) in certain civilian shootings. There very well may be
homicides where the shooter is not a “bad guy.” A person who shoots someone
(say in self defense) may very well be justified in that shooting, or less
culpable than what their initial words may indicate. A non-officer who
commits a justifiable homicide may be in much the same [emotional]
situation as the shooting officer. The need for veracity of the
interview/investigation is the same.
If the person is suffering from memory effects from doing the shooting or
possibly observing it or being a victim of it, then the interview may be
affected based on memory lapses, alterations, etc.
Special Agent Robert Hall
FL Dept. of Law Enforcement
PARC APPROACH VIOLATES “BASIC INVESTIGATION 101″
PARC doesn’t recognize the reality of an investigation. Let’s say the
officer is the only survivor. However, there are witnesses to process, the
crime scene to contain and investigate, and evidence to examine and
compare. If the officer is the only involved person to question, he/she
should be the last to be interviewed. If the officer is one of 20, the
officer should still be the last to be interviewed. This is Basic
Investigation 101–question the person of interest last, after you know or
have a sense of what happened.
PARC is simply showing its politics with its statements/suggestions.
George T. Williams
Director of Training
Cutting Edge Training, LLC
[NOTE: Our thanks to Dr. Jonathon Page, a member of the Psychology Dept.
faculty at Minnesota State University-Mankato and a member of FSRC's
Technical Advisory Board, for his assistance and consultation.]
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Written by Force Science Institute
February 3rd, 2006 at 4:24 pm
© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.