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January 28, 2008

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Registration Starts for New Force Science Analysis Certification Training

Registration for the Force Science Research Center’s first-of-its-kind certification training in Force Science Analysis is now open.

The unique, 4-day course, intended to prepare investigators to make accurate interpretations of the human dynamics involved in complex, confusing, and controversial uses of force by police, will be presented for the first time Mar. 17-20 at the Mayfair Conference Centre in London, England.

Forty registrants will be accepted for the full 33-hour program leading to certification. This will include instructional lectures by world authorities on human behavior and memory under extreme stress, plus intensive workshops on investigative procedures and personal presentations by trainees that evaluate actual high-profile cases.

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An additional 100 applicants will be permitted to attend the lecture portions of the training only, to broaden their understanding of the ground-breaking research from FSRC and other sources pertaining to officer-involved shootings and other significant street confrontations.

To register or to obtain more information, email: eventsandconferences@met.pnn.police.uk

From the United States, you may also phone 01144-20-7161-1239 or 01144-20-7161-1294 and ask for Coralie Beamish, Alice Fletcher, or Donald Poyser. The fax number is 01144-20-7161-1388. Because of the time difference between the U.S. and London, the offices there close at approximately 11 a.m. weekdays Central time.

Late this year, the certification course is expected to be repeated—and possibly expanded—at a centralized location in the U.S., with basic and advanced training and updates held in this country at least annually thereafter. A number of American departments have asked to sponsor this training, Lewinski says. However, details and venues for the domestic program have not yet been finalized, so at the moment registration is available only for the inaugural training in London.

“Certification in Force Science Analysis indicates that you have been trained to recognize and articulate important psychological, biological, and physiological factors that can influence human behavior and memory in force encounters and in high-speed pursuits,” explains Dr. Bill Lewinski, coordinator of the new training and executive director of the FSRC, headquartered at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

“Just as investigators trained in accident reconstruction, blood-spatter analysis, and other science-based disciplines bring their specialized insights to bear in unwrapping professional mysteries, Force Science Analysts will be able to apply their grasp of human dynamics to interpret how and why a puzzling force confrontation evolved as it did.

“They’ll also know how best to mine the memories of officers involved for relevant recollections. This information can be vital to authorities who ultimately must judge the force encounter.

“There’s a tremendous need for Force Science skills in police investigations. Without this training, controversial shootings and other uses of force that occur in highly stressful, rapidly evolving circumstances can easily be misjudged, with devastating consequences that can range from crushing liability judgments to the unjust imprisonment of victim officers.”

Course content, says Lewinski, will focus on “solidly documented findings about the use of force that are not commonly understood or widely known” among Internal Affairs and homicide investigators. Areas that will be explored and tailored to law enforcement applications include, among many others:

• the impact of the brain and body on psychomotor performance, visual attention, and memory;

• the latest cognitive interviewing techniques for maximizing recall;

• often-overlooked officer and suspect behaviors before and during deadly assaults;

• how action and reaction times, perceptual distortions, narrowed vision, language limitations, and distractions can impact force applications;

• the effects of low light levels on perception;

• how contextual cues influence judgment and decision-making;

• how training can impact on behavior in unexpected ways.

Faculty for the London course will include:

• Dr. Lewinski, who will present research findings from FSRC, a key  component of the training;

• Dr. R. Edward Geiselman, a psychology professor at UCLA and co-author of the leading textbook on cognitive interviewing techniques for law enforcement;

• Dr. Itiel Dror, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Southampton (England), who has advised INTERPOL, the U.S. Secret Service, and international military agencies on decision-making and visual judgment;

• Dr. Matthew Sztajnkrycer, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Mayo Clinic and an expert on the complex chemical interactions involved in decision-making under stress;

• Dr. Richard Schmidt, a foremost authority on attention, concentration, and motor performance in high-stress circumstances, psychology professor emeritus at UCLA, and president of the consulting firm, Human Performance Research;

• Dr. Jonathan Page, assistant professor of psychology at Minnesota State-Mankato, advisory board member for FSRC, and a researcher on the influence of training on decision-making variables;

• Prof. Peter Sheard, senior lecturer in the School of Physical Education and Sports Sciences at the University of Bedfordshire (England) and prominent researcher in biomechanics and physiology;

• Edward Davis, former criminal investigative instructor for the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and co-author of 3 landmark studies of the behavioral/psychological characteristics of officers and suspects involved in fatal, felonious attacks;

• Justin Dixon, an Olympics athlete, researcher of physiological responses to shootings, and physical training manager for the London Metropolitan Police.

During the daytime on Days 1-3 of the course, the instructors will engage in interactive presentations about their areas of expertise, with Lewinski as moderator assuring that all material is well understood by the lay audience and consistently focused on practical investigative issues.

After lectures each day, attendees seeking certification will be divided into 7 small work groups. Each group will receive information, including videotape evidence and/or animation footage, regarding a real-life, high-profile, controversial use-of-force or pursuit case from Lewinski’s extensive files, with the assignment to determine in detail how they would go about investigating it.

“All these cases involve the kind of influential human dynamics that are often overlooked by uninformed investigators, resulting in radically inappropriate conclusions,” Lewinski says. “The work groups will be given extensive background on the cases. They will have to determine what factors of human performance may play a role in their case, how they would go about getting the information they need to document these factors, and how they would explain their interpretation to a supervisor who does not have their level of understanding about these dynamics.”

Acting as facilitators for the workshop groups will be Chris Lawrence, a popular Canadian trainer and a member of FSRC’s advisory board; Patricia Thiem, assistant director of Force Science, LLC; and Cst. Dave Blocksidge, project manager for the FSRC in the United Kingdom.

Day 4, exclusively devoted to certification candidates, will be used for case work and presentations by the groups of their investigations and findings. The day will conclude with a written examination.

“Overall, the training is intended to expand investigators’ concept of forensic evidence to include biomechanical and cognitive elements and to strengthen their analytical skills and articulation ability,” Lewinski says.

“Besides learning how to probe for potentially influential factors, they’ll also learn to articulate in reports and testimony how these elements may have shaped the encounter, in order to give as complete a picture as possible of what occurred.

“In short, across the 4 days, the students will come to understand a protocol for investigating, interviewing, and articulating that will best assure a fair, balanced, impartial, and comprehensive explanation of any given force encounter.”

Because of subsidies from the course’s co-sponsors, the London Metropolitan Police Service and the Constables’ Branch Board of the London Met Federation, costs have been kept modest. The full certification course is 800 English pounds sterling (approximately $1,600 US) for public sector personnel. For 3 days of lecture only, it’s 275 pounds sterling (about $550).

For specifics on payment, contact the Metropolitan Police Service’s Events & Income Development Unit at eventsandconferences@met.pnn.police.uk

“The slots for the certification training will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and are expected to fill quickly,” Lewinski says. “Our preliminary announcement of this course [see Force Science News transmission #77, 6/27/07] generated a great deal of interest, both in England and throughout the U.S.”