Force Science News #37:

Readers Who’ve “Been There” Scorn PARC’s Guidelines for

Post-Shooting Interviews

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

valid conclusions.

 

“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

in court.

 

“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

scrutiny.

 

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

shootings.

 

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

incident.

 

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

retirements.

 

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,

life-taking) episodes.

 

Irving B. Guller, Ph.D.

Director, The Institute for Forensic Psychology

Oakland, NJ

 

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

Bellingham, WA

 

[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.