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Memory

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Tell Me Exactly What You Heard

In our last article, Honest But Not Accurate, we rejected the idea that an officer’s memory was the equivalent of a video recorder. We cautioned that inconsistencies between an officer’s memory and a video recording could result from human performance factors and are not necessarily evidence of intentional deception. But even in cases without video...
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Body-Worn Cameras and Memory

Body-worn cameras can’t replace an officer’s perceptions, but they can be extraordinarily valuable when they confirm the presence of weapons, capture resistance, and verify de-escalation attempts. What’s more, it is expected that the presence of cameras encourages people on both sides of the lens to be the best version of themselves as they interact. But...
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Critical Incident Interviews: Is the 48-Hour Delay Still Good Advice?

Following a high-intensity event, should officers be allowed to recover before being interviewed? In 2014, Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute, sat down with Force Science News1 to explain why he recommends a 48-hour minimum recovery period: “This is the general conclusion from some 20 years of scientific research on sleep...
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New, Free Guide On Human Factors Affecting Perception & Memory

A succinct guide to the human factors that can affect an officer’s memory after a shooting or other use-of-force crisis has been posted for free access online by Lexipol, the law enforcement policy and risk-management organization. Click here to download a copy. The four-page “Explainer Document,” written by two Force Science graduates, is a handy...
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Memory And The Question Of Deception: Recommended Reading

Gaps, inconsistencies, and errors in officers’ accounts of high-stress events may look like evidence of lies and deception. But a recent blog posting by an Advanced Force Science Specialist explains why leaping to that conclusion is likely to be wrong. The article, “Imperfect Recall: How Memory Impacts Police Use of Force Investigations” by Jason Helfer,...
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Anatomy Of An Officer’s Defense In A High-Profile Shooting (Part 1)

Part 1 of a 2-part report Police Atty. Scott Wood was absorbed in his son’s high school football game that Friday night, so he missed the two calls to his cell phone until half time. Then he listened to the voice mails that hurled him into one of the nation’s most explosive officer-involved shootings. A...
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Body Cams Can Improve Report Accuracy, Another New Study Shows

A new study of how EMS personnel could use body-worn cameras to overcome memory errors when making reports has significant implications for law enforcement officers as well. While the research does not focus on policing, the findings suggest that officers should be routinely incorporating a review of BWC video in their documentation of notable events...
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New FSI Study: Memory Is Worst About Most Critical Moment Of An OIS

A profound irony is revealed in a major new study of human performance under stress, sponsored by the Force Science Institute. Namely: At the most critical moment in a force encounter–the moment that perhaps is most important for an officer to describe accurately–the officer’s memory of certain key details about what happened is likely to...
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First Study: Does Viewing Body Cam Footage Help Report Writing?

The impact of stress on memory can cause an officer’s recollection of a force encounter to include unintentional and sometimes major errors, but reviewing body camera recordings as a part of report writing may make the permanent record more accurate and complete, according to a new, first-of-its-kind human performance study. The researchers involved claim their...
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