Combating the “Hollywood effect” held by the public
I was honored to attend the Force Science certification course held last month. From a business standpoint, I was a bit reluctant about the idea of devoting an entire week to something that did not generate any income. However, after attending the training and earning my certification in “force science analysis,” I can honestly say that it was one of the most interesting and instructive weeks I have spent in my 20-plus years in law enforcement. The training was an investment in my practice and my firm will be able to provide an enhanced level of representation to our clients as a result of this training.
Since opening my firm, I have represented well over a thousand law enforcement officers from agencies throughout the state of Illinois. I have represented hundreds of officers who were involved in deadly force encounters. The Force Science Institute is dedicated to the study of human dynamics in high stress, rapidly unfolding force encounters. Force Science is the research and application of unbiased scientific principles and processes to determine the true nature of behavior in high stress and deadly force encounters. Administrators, courts, media and the public often weigh in on an officer’s decisions and actions while sitting in their living rooms or offices long after the dust has settled. The public’s perception of police shooting is largely shaped by what they see on T.V., known as the “Hollywood effect.” How can a shooting be justified if the offender was shot in the back? Why did the police shoot an unarmed offender? Force Science provides the answer to these questions, and many more, through groundbreaking, reproducible studies all of which are meticulously documented. I recommend that all police officers familiarize themselves with the work of Force Science. Much of the work can be viewed by visiting the website: www.forcescience.org
In June, 2004 Dr. Bill Lewinski founded the Force Science Research Center. Dr. Lewinski looked at a number of factors during his research. His initial focus was biomechanics: how fast suspects attack officers and how quickly officers can react. Getting precise answers involved simulating hundreds of encounters, capturing them on time coded videotape that was precisely analyzed to identify predictable posturing, sequences of movement in the exact timing of actions and reactions. The results of this research had a tremendous impact on law enforcement. Now, for the first time, in depth scientific documentation was available that showed how long it takes suspects to attack in various ways and how long it takes officers whose lives are on the line to respond. Although seemingly simple, this information has profound implications. These findings confirm scientifically what many law enforcement officers “knew” instinctively–that cops can be seriously behind the reactionary curve because a suspect’s action is always faster than officer’s reaction.
It is imperative that officers obtain qualified and competent representation when they have used deadly force. These officers are susceptible to allegations which may be criminal, administrative or based upon a civil rights lawsuit. In some case, the officer may find themselves defending their actions in all three venues. Law enforcement officers are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the investigation into their use of force. A private citizen involved in the use of force cannot be compelled to give a statement to the law enforcement agency assigned with the investigation of the shooting. They can simply invoke their constitutional right to remain silent. When a police officer uses deadly force, they must provide a statement to law enforcement; otherwise they face likely termination. This will probably be the most important statement ever provided by the officer. For this reason, it is critical that officers are aware of the dynamics of these incidents and are represented properly.