Force Science News #77:

New Certification for Force Investigators Announced by FSRC

A first-of-its-kind, 5-day training course, leading to a new certification for investigators of force-related incidents, will be offered early next year by the Force Science Research Center.


Attendees who successfully complete the program will be certified in “Force Science Analysis.” This designation attests that the holder has been trained to recognize and articulate important psychological, biological, and physiological factors that can influence human behavior and memory in force encounters and pursuit situations.



The training will be based on solidly documented findings about human dynamics by the FSRC and other world-acclaimed research sources that are commonly misunderstood or ignored in law enforcement investigations, according to Dr. Bill Lewinski, coordinator of the new program and executive director of the FSRC.


“There’s a tremendous need for the application of human science in force investigations,” he told Force Science News. “Without it, controversial officer-involved shootings and other uses of force–even pursuits, which also involve split-second decision-making in highly stressful, rapidly evolving circumstances–can easily be misjudged, with devastating consequences.


“In some cases officers have gone to prison and agencies have suffered crushing losses in civil suits because the factors in how humans perform under stress were not properly assessed by uninformed investigators.”


Like persons trained in accident reconstruction, blood-spatter analysis, and other science-based disciplines, investigators certified in Force Science Analysis will be able to apply their grasp of human dynamics to interpret how and why a force confrontation evolved as it did, Lewinski said. They will also know how to “best mine the memories of those involved for relevant recollections.” This information can be vital to authorities who ultimately must judge the encounter, such as administrators, I.A. chiefs, review board members, prosecutors, judges, and jurors.


The exact fee and dates for the first certification course have yet to be determined, Lewinski said, but he anticipates that it will be held for a maximum of 35-40 students “in late winter or early spring” at a police training facility in the vicinity of London, England. The London Met Constables’ Branch Board will sponsor the training, with Cst. Dave Blocksidge serving as project manager.


The course will be repeated–and possibly extended by half a week–in the United States in the fall of 2008. After that, basic certification training and updates will be held at least annually. An advanced certification program may also be designed, Lewinski said.


At this writing, he is confirming the course faculty, which will include 10 British and American researchers and experts who are international leaders in their fields. Most are affiliated with prominent universities. Among other things, their backgrounds will include world-class expertise in:


* how the brain and body work together to form psychomotor skills;


* the latest cognitive interviewing techniques for law enforcement;


* officer and suspect behaviors in deadly assaults on LEOs;


* motor performance, visual attention, and memory;


* how stress and trauma affect memory;


* the effect of low-light levels on perception;


* contextual cues;


* the dynamics of action and reaction in force encounters;


* decision-making variables during pursuits;


* judgment and psycho-physiological responses under extreme stress.


Most of the faculty are medical doctors or hold PhDs in specialized disciplines of psychology and some have authored the leading textbooks in their fields. A few have worked closely with law enforcement and/or the military in the past, but “some will be adapting their findings on human behavior to a law enforcement context for the first time,” Lewinski said.


As course coordinator, as well as a presenter himself, it will be his job, he said, to assure that “all information is conveyed in terms that are understandable and have practical application for the attendees seeking certification.” Question-and-answer opportunities will supplement the formal instruction.


The format will shape up like this:




The first 3 days of the course will consist of daytime and evening sessions in which the instructors will identify and explain in detail certain physical and psychological phenomena associated with human behavior and demonstrate how these can impact performance under stress.


“These are things like reaction times, perceptual distortions, narrowed vision, language limitations, and memory gaps–factors that investigators need to be aware of and fully understand, especially in controversial or puzzling cases,” Lewinski said. “They also need to be able to articulate in reports and testimony how these factors may have influenced an event, to give as complete a picture as possible of what happened. And they need to understand how the traumatized brain functions so they can adapt their interviewing techniques to recover a maximum amount of valid material from the participants.”


What the students will come to understand during these 3 days, Lewinski said, is “a protocol for investigating and interviewing that will best assure a fair, balanced, impartial, and comprehensive explanation of the encounter in question.


“It is not an investigator’s job to determine if an officer’s behavior, let’s say, was right or wrong in a use-of-force situation. But it is the investigator’s job to clearly and objectively present all the potentially relevant facts to the person or person responsible for that decision.


“Without this training, it is highly likely that pivotal truths related to human performance will be misinterpreted or missed entirely in high-profile cases where the stakes are life-changing.”




Trainees will be split into work groups of 3-5 each. Drawing on vast files of cases Lewinski has been involved in, each group will be assigned a real-life incident to “investigate.” Most will be officer-involved shootings, but at least one will concern a lesser use of force and one a pursuit. The students will have photos, videos, reports, and other evidence from the actual case to work with.


Through role-play questioning back and forth with Lewinski and faculty members, the trainees will gather information and develop an investigation, with whatever emphasis is appropriate on the human performance factors they’ve been schooled in.


“This will be a highly interactive experience and will allow the trainees to make practical applications of what they’ve learned, just as they would in a real investigative setting,” Lewinski said. “They will need to be open-minded and unbiased in their approach.”




Each group will present the results of its investigation to the full class and faculty. “They’ll explain what they did, why, and how human factors fitted into their investigation, along with other evidence,” Lewinski said. “The point will not be to advocate but to inform a decision-maker of the dynamic elements that need to be understood and considered.


The day will conclude with a written examination.


“Overall, the course is intended to expand an investigator’s concept of forensic evidence to include biomechanical and cognitive elements and to strengthen his or her analytical skills and articulation ability,” Lewinski said. “In short, you will understand how human beings perform in force situations and the implications this has for your investigations.”


The certification is appropriate for force investigators, their supervisors, and use-of-force trainers.


We’ll keep you informed as more details about this special training become available.




Written by Force Science Institute

July 27th, 2007 at 7:13 pm


© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.