Force Science Launches New Studies Of Assailants’ Threatening Moves

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A major fresh look at some of the Force Science Institute’s seminal research on the physical dynamics of assaults on officers is underway at two universities.

The goal, says FSI’s executive director Dr. Bill Lewinski, is to use highly sophisticated technology that’s now available to more deeply explore earlier findings that have become critical to modern law enforcement training and tactics, investigations, and legal proceedings.

Whatever results emerge and their potential impact on police operations are expected to be thoroughly analyzed and ready for disclosure by the end of the year, Lewinski says.


Graduates of Force Science Analysis certification training will recall seeing FSI’s pioneering videos that document how quickly armed suspects fleeing from officers can turn and shoot mid-stride while continuing to run—a dynamic that sometimes results in subjects being inadvertently shot in the back by pursuing officers defending themselves.

Tests of that scenario and a variety of other assault methods are being repeated in a motion study by a research team at a university in Minnesota, using students in the age range typical of offenders as the “assailants.”

“This time the action is being recorded by high-speed video ‘capture-and-analysis’ programs that are used in the civilian world to study movements of professional athletes,” Lewinski explains. “These record at 200 to 1,000 frames per second, which allows a very high level of precision and certainty when analyzing the physical dynamics involved. Elements like speed, distance traveled, the nature and sequence of movement, and other components of attacker behavior.”

From scrutinizing the images in such fine detail, the researchers expect to identify, among other things, patterns of movement that could indicate danger cues of a pending assault, Lewinski says.

“The findings will also help in recreating the most accurate version of a use-of-force event during investigations and court appearances,” he says.


At a university in Utah another research team with similar goals is using different high-tech gear to monitor and study assailant movement. These researchers are replicating eight forms of assault that FSI has studied in the past, including pointing and shooting from a car seat, pulling a gun from the waistband, initiating a gun attack from the “bootleg” position, and so on.

“Their data is mined from accelerometers and gyroscopes attached to limbs and other body parts of student volunteers and transmitted instantaneously to a computer spreadsheet for immediate analysis,” Lewinski says.

“Before, we were able to document how fast an attack can occur from different positions in terms of hundredths of a second. With this technology, we can measure elements of speed and movement precisely within thousandths of a second.”

Again, patterns as well as important isolated findings that are scientifically documented are expected to benefit street officers, investigators, trainers, legal representatives, and use-of-force evaluators whose accurate understanding of human dynamics is critical.

“The fundamental research findings of Force Science are relied upon by law enforcement and the criminal justice system throughout the US and internationally,” Lewinski told Force Science News. “As technology advances and new methods for digging deeper become available, we consider it imperative that we keep our basics as up to date as possible.”

In turn, we’ll keep our readers informed as more details of these projects are available.

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