Force Science News #38:

New FSRC Inventions Will Help Studies of Unintended Discharges, Multi-Assailant Assaults, Shooting Accuracy

To get more researchers involved in issues that relate to line officers and use of force, the Force Science Research Center today announces creation of an online, peer-reviewed “e-journal” that will post papers from police professionals and academics with relevant studies to report. Force Science News readers are encouraged to contribute.


“One of the fundamental missions of the FSRC is to stimulate investigations by researchers outside the Center into matters of street-level concern,” says Dr. Bill Lewinski, FSRC’s executive director. “We expect the e-journal to be an important step toward that goal.”



Traditionally, he explains, academics–including those in criminal justice disciplines–have largely avoided research into questions related to practical concerns of patrol officers, preferring to focus on management and policy issues, statistics, demographics, sociology and crime theory.


“With a unique and reputable e-journal as an outlet for their work, we hope more will be motivated to follow FSRC’s lead and examine the human factors in use of force by line officers–issues that potentially have life-or-death consequences,” Lewinski says. “The e-journal will also provide a publication source for law enforcement personnel doing quality master- and doctoral-level research on pertinent topics.”


Editor of the online postings will be Dr. Scott Granberg-Rademacker, a political science professor at Minnesota State University-Mankato where the FSRC is headquartered. “Scott has strong credentials in creating and editing other such journals,” Lewinski says.


Beginning immediately, Granberg-Rademacker will accept submissions for possible publication. Guidelines for preparation and submission are posted at:


An unidentified board of volunteers representing a cross-section of specialties will conduct a blind review of all submissions and select the final papers for publication. Force Science News will advise you when they are up and how to access them.




Three new inventions have been created to advance research projects at the Force Science Research Center, which ultimately will help trainers and officers to improve street performance and save lives.


Two of these were designed by Dr. Bill Hudson, deputy director of FSRC and chairman of the Computer and Electrical Engineering Dept. at Minnesota State University-Mankato where the Research Center is based. The third invention comes from Ron Avery, founder of the Practical Shooting Academy in Olathe, CO, and a member of FSRC’s Technical Advisory Board.


One of Hudson’s devices is a miniaturized pressure sensor that will aid researchers in learning more about unintended discharges. It’s an assembly of paper-thin, double-layer copper strips that can be glued unobtrusively to the frame or trigger guard of any firearm without interfering with the gun’s unholstering or operation.


Officers participating in role-playing research exercises or in simulations on FSRC’s special IES Milo system will be told to keep their trigger finger pressed against the device until they make a decision to shoot, just as they’re expected to keep their finger outside the trigger guard in real-life confrontations.


So long as pressure is maintained on the sensor, an electrical connection keeps tiny LED lights glued under the gun frame illuminated. But when the finger is moved off the device, the electrical connection is broken and the lights go off.


“Previous experiments in Germany have determined that officers often move their finger onto the trigger before they’ve actually decided to shoot, thus setting the scene for an unintended discharge,” explains Dr. Bill Lewinski, FSRC’s executive director. “Many times they’re not aware they’re doing this and may even vehemently deny it.” [See Force Science News Transmission #3, "Can You Really Prevent Unintentional Discharges?"]


The sensor used in Germany was a bulky, awkward mechanism attached to a pseudo gun that may have detracted from the experiments, Lewinski says. “With Bill Hudson’s much more sophisticated sensor, we’ll be able to tell precisely what’s happening with the trigger finger at all times, through videotaping or personal observation, while the test subjects operate their duty weapons in their normal fashion.


“This may eventually help us determine why fingers stray inside the trigger guard and to identify what we can do with training to condition officers to prevent this.”


A patent is pending on Hudson’s sensor. Based on its anticipated functionality in research experiments, Lewinski hopes reproductions can be made available in the future to firearms trainers who see unintended discharges as a problem and want to work with officers to minimize that risk.


Hudson’s second invention is a new arrangement of light-stimulus boards that will allow more advanced research into distractions that can be life-threatening to an officer in a deadly force encounter.


In some of the studies Lewinski has conducted in the past to measure reaction time, officers have been told to concentrate on a board of lights and to react in specific ways when a certain pattern of lights appears. “Because they fixated on only a single board, there may have been unrealistically fast response times in some situations,” Hudson speculates.


His new apparatus incorporates 4 boards, which can be placed at different distances and angles to the test subjects. These boards involve wireless connections and significantly upgraded computer technology, but most important they will require scanning and head-turning by an officer to detect the light pattern that will signal him or her to react.


In effect, this will simulate distractions that an officer may be forced to deal with during a real-life armed confrontation, such as looking around for cover or reacting to multiple assailants.


“We don’t really know how difficult it is cognitively or how much time it takes to track and react to multiple stimuli,” Lewinski told Force Science News. “With multiple sensor boards we can begin to measure distraction time to thousandths of a second and research this phenomenon more deeply.


“Let’s say that for you to glance to the right or left 90 degrees and come back to reestablish your original point of concentration takes a full second. That may seem like a mouse turd of time. But in one second, a suspect could fire 4 rounds at you! In a gunfight, that is profound.


“We need to understand distractions much better than we do, and the first step is to measure them accurately. Bill Hudson’s new system will be vital to doing that.”


Avery’s contribution relates to an extensive study on hit probability in which he is participating under the Center’s auspices.


He has designed a unique human silhouette target in which score zones are accurately aligned with the body’s various anatomical features and weighted according to their desirability as hit locations.


“The target is based on ‘centerline theory’ rather than center-mass theory,” Avery explains. That is, the highest scoring areas incorporate vital zones of the head and neck and a cylinder-like zone that contains the spinal cord from neck to abdomen and major blood vessels above and below the heart.


Overlaying the entire target is a subdued grid that permits each square inch to be assigned a number for data collection purposes. This, in turn, allows for precise, accurate computer analysis of exactly where shots impact and their probable effectiveness.


Avery developed the copyrighted target in consultation with 2 medical experts who also are FSRC Technical Advisory Board members, Dr. Sudhir Kushwaha, a professor of cardiology at the Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Bob Gazzola, a sports physician.


Using this type of target initially and potentially graduating eventually to live role-playing scenarios with simunitions, FSRC researchers intend to measure the likely accuracy of inexperienced and experienced shooters, firing in ways and from distances commonly associated with attacks on LE officers.


Lewinski estimates that the full study will require at least 2 years to complete and involve thousands of test subjects. By then, he hopes to be able to conclude how accurately and devastatingly would-be cop killers can shoot from various distances and what reactions from officers–DT control measures, movement, standing and drawing, etc.–are most likely to be effective in protecting against and neutralizing the threat.


“Then,” he says, “we need to determine how best to train officers to make the right decisions in the midst of life-or-death stress.”


The experiments are expected to begin in May in Wisconsin and Wyoming.




Comments continue to flood in regarding the recommendations from PARC (the Police Assessment Resource Center) for how best to handle involved officers after a major force encounter, particularly a shooting (see FSN Transmissions #36 and 37).


PARC, as you may recall, is a LE oversight and consulting group that strongly advocates treating surviving officers essentially like suspects and subjecting them to interrogations/interviews as quickly as possible after a life-threatening incident.


Here’s some of the most recent e-mail reaction we’ve received. Some letters have been edited for clarity and length.




More than a decade ago my partner was shot through the arm and in the chest (fortunately not fatally) as we were about to make a stealth entry into an apartment where an armed man was holding his girlfriend against her will.


Years later we were re-enacting the incident for a training tape. My partner re-enacted going down, and I grabbed him by the collar and began dragging him to cover. As I did so, I holstered my weapon and picked up my partner’s, which he’d dropped. When I pointed his weapon at the door the shots had come through, the exact same thought flashed through my mind that I’d had at the time of the actual shooting. I thought, “I’ve never qualified with this weapon.”


The funny thing is, I remembered for all those years dragging my partner away, stopping his bleeding, and then throwing him over my shoulder and carrying him to an ambulance. But everything else I did not remember until performing that re-enactment years later. Then not only did I remember minute details of what I had done in those few frenzied seconds, but I remembered even my specific thoughts. The memories came to me as clear as day.


Therefore I believe a walk-through at the scene, after the shooting, with the officers involved is crucial for accuracy.


Lt. Dan Marcou

La Crosse (WI) PD




I have investigated officer-involved shootings for 10 years and find PARC’s “Best Practices” to be the “Worst Practices” to employ regarding police shootings. Who deemed PARC’s practices best, and what department in its right mind would utilize them? Are the PARC people former LE officers who have been involved in shootings or have investigated them…or are they a self-promoting organization looking to pass themselves off as experts?


Lt. John Prendergast

Philadelphia PD, IAD-Shooting Team




I am a former police officer (7 years on the street) whose legal practice now centers on defending “police misconduct” cases.


If the truth is better served by a pre-interview recovery period for officers after a deadly encounter, then that should be the order of the day across the board, for officers and civilians alike, since the objective in each case is to arrive at the truth.


Just as officers who are involved in duty-related shootings are human beings who are affected by the stresses of the experience, all other folks who are involved in deadly encounters are similarly human, and similarly affected, including civilians who precipitated the incident for criminal reasons.


I doubt that those who are criminally involved in a shooting will escape the justice which is due them as a result of such an approach.

Jim Wilson

Sr. Dep. City Attorney

Sacramento, CA




I teach issues involved in police shootings and, before retiring, investigated the infamous FBI shoot-out in Miami. If you try to “interrogate” an officer you are making a big mistake. Officers, just like everyone else, have 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th Amendment rights. They also have the right to an attorney and if you push these attorneys they will have the officer invoke. Then where would we be?


Sgt. David Rivers (ret.)

Metro-Dade Police PD, Homicide Bureau



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Written by Force Science Institute

February 17th, 2006 at 4:25 pm

© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.