Another Alarm Sounds About Tired Cops

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin has added its voice to the growing concern about police fatigue, with an article in its August issue characterizing the problem as “an accident waiting to happen.”

Among other things, the author, Spcl. Agt. Dennis Lindsey, a senior instructor at the DEA Academy and an international fellow at the Australian Institute of Police Management, cites a disturbing study that itemizes 9 workplace performance qualities susceptible to fatigue, all of them critical in policing. When fatigued, the study found, you experience a significantly lessened ability to:

  1. Comprehend complex situations that require processing a substantial amount of data within a short time frame;
  2. Manage events and improve strategies;
  3. Perform risk assessment and accurately predict consequences;
  4. Be innovative;
  5. Take personal interest in the outcome of action;
  6. Control your mood and behavior;
  7. Recollect the timing of events;
  8. Monitor your personal performance; and
  9. Communicate effectively.

“When [an officer] is deprived of sleep, actual changes occur in the brain that cannot be overcome with willpower, caffeine, or nicotine,” Lindsey writes. “The decline in vigilance, judgment, and safety in relation to the increase in hours on the job cannot be trivialized.

“In the last 25 years, the job of enforcing the law has become increasingly complex from a cognitive perspective. [P]olicing the community is creating tasks that require much higher levels of attentiveness than in the past.”

Yet, “modern law enforcement practices have developed well-entrenched unwritten rules that treat sleep in utmost disregard and disdain. Agencies often encourage and reward workaholics,” and, through their staffing and shift practices, virtually mandate fatigue.

“Agencies must acknowledge this problem to improve working conditions for their personnel and to protect them from the scientifically documented consequences that fatigue can cause.”

Among the research highlights Lindsey reports are these:

  • After 20 hours of wakefulness, neurobehavioral functions are impaired equivalent to that of a drunk with a BAC of 0.10. Noticeable impairment sets in well before that;
  • Even moderate levels of sleepiness “can substantially impair the ability to drive safely,” even before you actually fall asleep at the wheel;
  • The ability to maintain speed and road position on a driving simulator is significantly reduced when the normal awake period is prolonged by just 3 hours;
  • “After 24 hours of sustained wakefulness, the brain’s metabolic activity can decrease by up to 65% in total and by up to 11% in specific areas of the brain, particularly those that play a role in judgment, attention, and visual functions;”
  • As people, including officers, “try to fight through periods of fatigue, the human body, in an effort to rest, goes into microsleeps” where you literally fall asleep “anywhere from 2 to 10 seconds at a time. It is difficult to predict when a person, once fatigued, might slip into a microsleep.”
  • As little as 2 hours of sleep loss on just one occasion “can result in degraded reaction time, cognitive functioning, memory, mood, and alertness;”
  • “Fatigue is 4 times more likely to cause workplace impairment than alcohol and other drugs.” Ironically, chemical abuse normally is “addressed immediately by management. However, the lack of sleep, probably the most common condition adversely affecting personnel performance, often is ignored.”

“Fatigue is a serious, challenging problem that requires informed, forward-thinking managers to take action sooner rather than later,” Lindsey insists.

His recommendations include:


Administrators should review all “policies, procedures, and practices that affect shift scheduling, overtime, rotation, the number of work hours allowed, and the way the organization deals with overly tired employees.”


Administrators should review “recruit, supervisor in-service, and roll-call training…to determine if personnel receive adequate information about the importance of good sleep habits, the hazards associated with fatigue and shift work, and strategies for managing them.” Personnel should be “taught to view fatigue as a safety issue.”


Agencies should consider “several different work/rest rules. The most common policy is the 16/8 formula. For every 16 hours of work, departments must provide 8 hours of rest time. If resources are limited, managers may have to choose between using volunteers/reserves, implementing mutual aid agreements, or declaring an emergency and breaking the work/rest policy. Any policy must include flexibility.”


“Officers should not consider vacations just as missed days of work. They should turn off their cell phones and advise courts of scheduled leave. They always should take the time off that their departments provide and use it, remembering that no one is irreplaceable.”

Lindsey warns: “Law enforcement fatigue and sleep deprivation…are becoming serious political and legal liabilities for police managers…. Exhaustion due to shift work, voluntary and mandatory overtime assignments, seemingly endless hours waiting to testify in court, physical and emotional demands of dealing with the public, and management expectations of doing more with less, combined with family responsibilities, put the modern law enforcement professional at serious emotional and physical risk….

“Police work is [a] profession in which we would want all practitioners to have adequate and healthful sleep to perform their duties at peak levels. Not only is fatigue associated with individual misery, but it also can lead to counterproductive behavior. It is well known that impulsiveness, aggression, irritability, and angry outbursts are associated with sleep deprivation.

“It is totally reprehensible that the cops we expect to protect us, come to our aid, and respond to our needs when victimized should be allowed to have the worst fatigue and sleep conditions of any profession in our society.”

For Dennis Lindsey’s full article, titled “Police Fatigue,” click here.

To read our previous reports on police fatigue, search the archives of Force Science News at: www.forcesciencenews.com

[Thanks to Julie Van Dielen of In the Line of Duty and to Gary Klugiewicz, national advisory board member of the Force Science Research Center, for tips that led to the development of this transmission.]

Leave a Reply


  • Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

Effective date: January 06, 2019

Force Science Institute, Ltd. (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the https://www.forcescience.org/ website (hereinafter referred to as the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data. Our Privacy Policy for Force Science Institute, Ltd. is based on the Privacy Policy Template from Privacy Policies.

We use your data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, the terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible from https://www.forcescience.org/

Information Collection And Use

We collect several different types of information for various purposes to provide and improve our Service to you.

Types of Data Collected

Personal Data

While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you (“Personal Data”). Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

  • Email address
  • First name and last name
  • Phone number
  • Address, State, Province, ZIP/Postal code, City
  • Cookies and Usage Data

Usage Data

We may also collect information on how the Service is accessed and used (“Usage Data”). This Usage Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

Tracking & Cookies Data

We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and hold certain information.

Cookies are files with small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a website and stored on your device. Tracking technologies also used are beacons, tags, and scripts to collect and track information and to improve and analyze our Service.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service. You can learn more how to manage cookies in the Browser Cookies Guide.

Examples of Cookies we use:

  • Session Cookies. We use Session Cookies to operate our Service.
  • Preference Cookies. We use Preference Cookies to remember your preferences and various settings.
  • Security Cookies. We use Security Cookies for security purposes.

Use of Data

Force Science Institute, Ltd. uses the collected data for various purposes:

  • To provide and maintain the Service
  • To notify you about changes to our Service
  • To allow you to participate in interactive features of our Service when you choose to do so
  • To provide customer care and support
  • To provide analysis or valuable information so that we can improve the Service
  • To monitor the usage of the Service
  • To detect, prevent and address technical issues

Transfer Of Data

Your information, including Personal Data, may be transferred to — and maintained on — computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ than those from your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside United States and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the data, including Personal Data, to United States and process it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

Force Science Institute, Ltd. will take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your Personal Data will take place to an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure Of Data

Legal Requirements

Force Science Institute, Ltd. may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

  • To comply with a legal obligation
  • To protect and defend the rights or property of Force Science Institute, Ltd.
  • To prevent or investigate possible wrongdoing in connection with the Service
  • To protect the personal safety of users of the Service or the public
  • To protect against legal liability

Security Of Data

The security of your data is important to us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Service Providers

We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service (“Service Providers”), to provide the Service on our behalf, to perform Service-related services or to assist us in analyzing how our Service is used.

These third parties have access to your Personal Data only to perform these tasks on our behalf and are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.


We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyze the use of our Service.

  • Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google uses the data collected to track and monitor the use of our Service. This data is shared with other Google services. Google may use the collected data to contextualize and personalize the ads of its own advertising network.You can opt-out of having made your activity on the Service available to Google Analytics by installing the Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on. The add-on prevents the Google Analytics JavaScript (ga.js, analytics.js, and dc.js) from sharing information with Google Analytics about visits activity.For more information on the privacy practices of Google, please visit the Google Privacy & Terms web page: https://policies.google.com/privacy?hl=en

Links To Other Sites

Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click on a third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

Children’s Privacy

Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 18 (“Children”).

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from anyone under the age of 18. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Children has provided us with Personal Data, please contact us. If we become aware that we have collected Personal Data from children without verification of parental consent, we take steps to remove that information from our servers.

Changes To This Privacy Policy

We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our Service, prior to the change becoming effective and update the “effective date” at the top of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us:

  • By email: support@forcescience.org
  • By visiting this page on our website: https://www.forcescience.org/contact
  • By phone number: 866-683-1944
  • By mail: Force Science Institute, Ltd.