Studying the Science & Human Dynamics Behind Deadly Force Encounters
In June, 2004 Dr. Bill Lewinski founded the Force Science® Research Center, the first of three divisions that now comprise the Force Science® Institute. At that point in his career, Dr. Lewinski, a behavioral scientist specializing in law enforcement related issues, had interviewed more than 900 officers who had been involved in deadly force confrontations. Many of those officers had been shot, and many had shot and killed offenders.
What impressed Dr. Lewinski was a disturbing theme that cropped up in many of these interviews. Surprisingly often, the officers involved in the encounters didn’t fully understand what had happened. Perceptual aberrations or gaps in their memory left chunks of the experience missing or inaccurately recalled by their conscious mind and often they claimed that the event occurred so quickly they couldn’t fully grasp it in detail. He also found that what the involved officers were convinced had happened was puzzlingly different from what the forensic evidence revealed.
At best, Dr. Lewinski found these officers were left to deal internally with these conflicts after a shooting, but they never really could put the discrepancies to rest. At worst, they were unable to adequately defend themselves when they were accused of improper force decisions.
Dr. Lewinski had empathy for these officers… and he had a scientist’s curiosity. Thirty years before he formally founded the FSRC, he had already begun exploring the human dynamics of deadly force encounters. As his work expanded and other experts from a wide variety of disciplines got involved, Dr. Lewinski decided to found the FSRC under the guidance of world-class advisors and Board members.
FSRC research under Dr. Lewinski’s direction, looked at a number of factors. His initial focus was biomechanics; how and 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 meticulously analyzed to identify predictable posturing, sequences of movement and 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 in law enforcement “knew” instinctively—that cops can be seriously behind the reactionary curve because a suspect’s action is always faster than an officer’s reaction.
Shortly after word of his work began to spread throughout the legal community, Lewinski and his staff were flooded with requests for use-of-force case analysis, guidance on argument construction, and expert witness testimony in court. With that came the founding of the consultation division. The unique time-and-motion studies conducted by the research division have produced bombshells in courtrooms worldwide. They have not only saved government entities millions of dollars in civil liability judgments but, most importantly, they have kept officers from unjustly being punished for controversial uses of force.
As the popularity and distinguished reputation of Force Science® continued to grow, demands for training and appearances at law enforcement and other legal conferences rapidly increased. The Institute, through its Force Science® Training division, now offers several training options, from 1-day programs designed to give students a general understanding of the concepts of Force Science® to an elaborate five-day Force Science® Certification Course, which boasts a large instructional team of world class experts and the chance for attendees to obtain certificates of completion that document their ability to apply the concepts of Force Science® to their own investigations.