A Survey of the Research on Human Factors Related to Lethal Force Encounters: Implications for Law Enforcement Training, Tactics, and Testimony

Law Enforcement Executive Forum

The Law Enforcement Executive Forum

Authors: Audrey Honig, William J. Lewinski

To effectively train and fairly evaluate the performance of an officer in a tactical environment, we must first fully understand how the brain perceives and processes information. This article will begin with an exploration of how the brain/mind processes routine information, followed by a discussion of the research on the effects of stress on perception. The brain refers to the actual organ contained in the skull that coordinates sensation and intellect, while the mind refers to consciousness/thought or intellect/memory. For our purposes, however, the terms will be used interchangeably. Common perceptual distortions and mistakes of fact will be identified, and their effect on reaction time will be discussed, taking into consideration the scientific and practical limitations governing human performance. Training recommendations designed to reduce both the rate and range of perceptual and processing errors while decreasing response lag time, or the time it takes to initiate a response, will also be proposed. Finally, improved methods for mining memory will be offered with the goal of increasing the accuracy of incident recall. The information will be presented as objectively as possible. It will be up to the reader to weigh the research, including potential organizational and/or political ramifications, and the pros and cons of any proposed changes to policies or practices.

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