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Thread: How LE & others deal with the job of killing and death

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Moderator's Note

    This is a spin-off from a thread 'How soldiers deal with the job of killing', which of late has taken a surprising turn and started to talk about the parallel and separate experience of LE and other public servants deal with the job of killing and dealing with death.


    It might be interesting to compare and contrast how soldiers deal with the job of killing with how medics deal with the job of preventing death.* For example, a reverse triage situation presents a particularly difficult combination of acts of omission and commission.

    *As an aside, many career park rangers have come upon multiple mangled corpses and have unsuccessfully administered CPR multiple times over the courses of their careers. Killologists should really talk to them at length about these sorts of things.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-18-2012 at 10:04 AM. Reason: Edited to fit new thread, original remains elsewhere. Add caption.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default How LE & others deal with the job of killing and death

    \It might be interesting to compare and contrast how soldiers deal with the job of killing with how medics deal with the job of preventing death.* For example, a reverse triage situation presents a particularly difficult combination of acts of omission and commission.

    *As an aside, many career park rangers have come upon multiple mangled corpses and have unsuccessfully administered CPR multiple times over the courses of their careers. Killologists should really talk to them at length about these sorts of things.
    That is a very interesting question. I wonder if anyone has ever done any good studies on this among, say, EMTs?

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    Default tequila & ganulv:

    As I just learned from today's mail (alum publication from Michigan Tech on its current research programs), Paul Ward, a Brit PhD in Cognitive Psych - came to MTU in 2010.

    ... His initial post-doctoral work was funded by the Army and conducted under the direction of Peter Hancock in Applied Experimental and Human Factors Psychology at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Ward continued his post-doctoral work in Applied Cognitive Science, funded by the Office of Naval Research, under the direction of K. Anders Ericsson at Florida State University. ...
    ...
    Dr. Ward’s specific research interests are in examining expertise, expert performance and decision making, particularly in complex and dynamic domains such as law enforcement, emergency/critical care, and sports. His primary interests are in examining the cognitive processes and skills that are responsible for superior/successful performance and performance improvement, and how these skills are acquired through practice and training.
    MTU's ACE Lab has a long list of Ward's publications since 2000 in law enforcement, emergency/critical care, and sports.

    I've sampled three today. The first on expert and non-expert soccer players, Mechanisms underlying skilled anticipation and recognition in a dynamic and temporally constrained domain (2011):

    Participants

    A total of 11 skilled and 8 less-skilled male soccer players participated. Skilled participants (M age = 25.5 years, SD = 4) played at a semi-professional level and nine of these had previously played for professional clubs in England. They had been playing soccer for an average of 15.1 years (SD = 3.1) and currently trained/played for an average of 9 hours (SD = 2.4) per week. Less skilled players (M age = 24 years, SD = 1.6) had not participated in the sport above recreational level. They had played soccer for an average of 11.1 years (SD = 3.3), although they currently played for an average of only 0.4 hours (SD = 0.7) per week.
    ...
    Anticipation. As per our hypotheses, ANOVA revealed a significant difference in anticipation accuracy between skilled and less-skilled participants, F(1, 17) = 22.4, pB.001, hp 2 = .57. Skilled participants (M = 65.3%, SD = 8.16) were more accurate when making anticipation decisions than less-skilled (M = 46.8%, SD = 8.7) participants, d = 2.2.

    Recognition. The analysis of d? revealed a significant main effect for skill, F(1, 17) = 21.1, pB.001, hp 2 = .55. Skilled participants (M = 0.80, SD = 0.60) were more sensitive in distinguishing previously seen from novel stimuli than less-skilled (M = 0.36, SD = 0.71) participants, d =0.70.
    The two on "shoot, don't shoot" in law enforcement followed the same lines, with huge differences in results between experts and novices in the three toughest scenarios, in the first study, Skill-based differences in option generation in a complex task: a verbal protocol analysis (2011). The second study I read also suggested that "expertise" is more than training an automaton, Skill-based differences in the cognitive mechanisms underlying failure under stress (2010).

    Contrary to choking research findings, the performance of experts was not adversely affected by skill-focused attention whereas novices were. This pattern was also reflected in a range of process measures. The results challenge currently accepted explanations of choking under pressure, and suggest that the degree to which expert performance is cognitively mediated may be greater than previously assumed. Implications for traditional theories of skill acquisition and for training to perform in stressful environments are discussed.
    There are several emergency/critical care studies I didn't get to.

    Here are the three exemplar scenarios from the first "shoot-don't shoot" study:

    Exemplar scenarios

    Blow up

    Radio message/context ‘‘You and your partner are responding to a call describing a disturbance outside of a school. A boy sitting on the grass directly in front of you has been acting suspiciously.’’

    Scenario description The participant arrives on scene with another officer. The fellow officer escorts students away from the suspect and asks the participant to take care of the suspect. As the participant approaches the suspect, the boy gets up and becomes verbally aggressive. The boy is wearing an untucked, partially buttoned shirt. A wire can be seen hanging down under the shirt. The boy opens his shirt to expose an improvised explosive device around his waist. A school bus approaches in the background. The boy removes the actuator from his waistline and holds it in his hand. He then gets flustered and drops the actuator on the ground. He bends down to pick it back up and then detonates the device just as the school bus pulls up next to him.

    The time between the turning point (denoted in italics in the scenario description) and the end of the trial (i.e., if participant did not shoot) was 13.51 s.

    Convenience store

    Radio message/context ‘‘While on patrol, you stop at the neighborhood convenience store for a cup of coffee. You are getting out of your car and going into the store.

    Scenario description The participant enters the store. The store manager greets him and nervously invites him to stay and have a cup of coffee. The camera pans to allow the participant to looking around the store (and away from the store manager). While looking around, the sound of a round being chambered into a firearm can be heard. The camera pans back around to show the perpetrator holding the store manager hostage. After a few seconds, the perpetrator surrenders, puts his weapon down, and releases the store manager. Immediately afterwards, the perpetrator then draws a backup weapon and shoots in the direction of the participant.

    The time between the turning point and the end of the trial was 5.46 s.

    School hostage

    Radio message/context ‘‘You and your partner are responding to a call describing a possible hostage situation at a school. You are in the passenger seat and your partner is driving to the scene.’’

    Scenario description The officers drive into the school’s service (i.e., back) entrance. After entering this area, just as they stop and begin to get out of the car vehicle, a male suspect armed with an assault rifle becomes visible, close to the rear entrance to the school. The male immediately turns to run back into the school and appears surprised to see the police. The suspect opens the rear door and enters the school with the assault rifle.

    The time between the turning point and the end of the trial was 6.07 s.
    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default How LE & others deal with the job of killing and death

    Moderator's Note

    This is a spin-off from a thread 'How soldiers deal with the job of killing', which of late has taken a surprising turn and started to talk about the parallel and separate experience of LE and other public servants deal with the job of killing and dealing with death.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default The Deadliest Weapon

    I ever saw was a Car. I saw more death and destruction from vehicle accidents than probably anything else. Anything that involved children was especially bad.

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    Council Member gute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    I ever saw was a Car. I saw more death and destruction from vehicle accidents than probably anything else. Anything that involved children was especially bad.
    Yep, kids are hard.

    IMO it just comes down to the individual and how they deal with it. Personally, if an officer goes into the job knowing, believing he/she will see death, might have to kill then you are already preparing yourself. IMO most agencies do a good getting their officer professional help after shooting incidents, etc.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default One copper's recollections

    In my early service I frequently encountered death, nearly always what we called a 'sudden death' and with two exceptions they were senior citizens who died at home. The one exception lingered for a while, a police retiree collapsed in the road and I was told to stay with the body and widow till family arrived a few hours later. In the second case a man in his 50's collapsed at work, we attended as it was thought to be an industrial accident and we then found his wife to tell her the bad news.

    Dealing with death then became quite routine. Calm people down, get a relative in, get details for a coroner's report, offer very basic assistance and exit.

    Child deaths, especially in road accidents, are known to be bad. Thankfully I never dealt with one.

    Never came close to killing anyone and I can now only recall one incident where someone was perceived as wanting to kill the police - in a prolonged vehicle pursuit. That lead to a flashback moment with episodes of my life speeding past and then gone - the "bad guy" being caught minutes later.

    Violent deaths in my career were rare, strangely I can recall those colleagues who committed suicide more clearly.

    Apart from the routine, "canteen" humour had a part and putting distance between your life at work and life at home. I'm hard pressed to think of a single debriefing after an incident and was only offered counselling after a police suicide - which I was unaware of having just joined his ex-team.

    Way back in 1974, when the B'ham Pub Bombings happened, with twenty-five dead and scores injured - when I joined in 1980 it was often referred to. We also knew one officer left under the strain and rejoined ten years later - he was rarely on the streets and was "looked after".

    I have asked two ex-RUC veterans for their comments.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Sergeant T's Avatar
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    Slap: AMEN!

    In my humble experience, dealing with straight death wasn't so bad. Dealing with the families was the hard part. Humans are spring-loaded to emotional absorption and that's about as big as emotions get. That hours long wait for a coroner or M.E. investigator to show up, sitting with grieving and understandably irrational family members, began to wear heavy after a while. I don't think it got easier, but I got a better professional routine over time, and that helped. It's worth noting that not all of them were bad. Worked one where a Holocaust survivor died sitting in his easy chair at 86. Felt honored and awed to be present for that one.

    It's hard to predict how an officer will react to having to use deadly force. We're all a three minute fight away from becoming cave men, and the best training can ameliorate it but can't forestall it. First officer involved I worked was a 10 year vet and FTO who got into a nasty fight that resulted in her shooting someone twice her size. The only coherent statement she made in the immediate aftermath was apologizing repeatedly to the supervisor that she didn't have any choice. It was a perfectly legit shooting, never any legal issues, and it took her a while to come back. (She also had blocks of amnesia around the incident.)

    The biggest predictor (IMHO) of how using deadly force will sit with an officer is how the shooting is perceived by peers and the community at large. Peers are usually very forgiving; the community can be fickle. Anymore it seems like nearly every officer involved shooting in a major metro area has some charge to it. We went through a bad year a few years back where there were over a dozen. All were perfectly legit, but after about the 8th or so the public started getting nasty.

    If I have a complaint about the way training has trended the past few decades it would be that deadly force is presented almost as a failure on the part of the officer. This is occasionally reinforced by a local DA prosecuting an officer for murder/manslaughter after a shooting, only to be found not guilty at trail or upon appeal. (Three instances of this jump to mind.) The rational part of me knows this is a reflection of the society we serve, a society that is always uncomfortable with deadly force. But the result has been a lot of angst for those that have to make that awful choice.

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    That is a very interesting question. I wonder if anyone has ever done any good studies on this among, say, EMTs?
    I’ve spent a couple of hours looking to see if there is anything like that out there. In the process I came across a decent review article in a 2006 number of Ann NY Acad Sci, learned a useful new word (‘peritrauma’), and learned that alpine guides often deal with trauma–related issues (which makes perfect sense, I just hadn’t ever considered it).

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    I ever saw was a Car. I saw more death and destruction from vehicle accidents than probably anything else.
    When I was in elementary school my mom came home one from a day of her nursing school ER rotation telling how the EMTs had responded to an accident in which the driver survived being thrown clear of the vehicle but was knocked unconscious on impact. Unfortunately, he ended up face down in a puddle and drown before the EMTs got there. Since that day no one has had to remind me to wear my seat belt.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Default The Worst EMT Moment in My Dataset

    An EMT unit got called to an auto accident. The driver who was high (pot and booze) ran off the road, went airborne and took down a power pole. One EMT took care of the driver (who survived); while the other EMT (my friend) went over to a body that was pretty banged up (dead). When he rolled him over, the body was his younger brother. The kid had been hitchhiking to get home. I represented the family in the wrongful death action, which settled before trial.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Reliving Horror and Faint Hope at Massacre Site

    A NYT article based on interviews with local LE @ Newtown, Conn:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/ny...pagewanted=all
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default I still have to admit, I do struggle

    The title comes from a closing comment in 'Life of a Police Officer: Medically and Psychologically Ruinous' in The Atlantic:http://m.theatlantic.com/health/arch...uinous/284324/

    In 2012, an unprecedented study of 464 police officers, published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health linked officers’ stress with increased levels of sleep disorders, Hodgkin's lymphoma, brain cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and suicide.

    Other studies have found that between 7 and 19 percent of active duty police have PTSD, while MRIs of police officers’ brains have found a connection between experiencing trauma and a reduction in areas that play roles in emotional and cognitive decision-making, memory, fear, and stress regulation.
    For once, on a quick scan, the comments have some value.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Cheshire Police officer crashed patrol car into HQ gates

    I spotted this story at the time and was frankly baffled. The BBC has a short post-court report:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-32114878

    Today via a policing blogger is the officer's own explanation for his PTSD, dating back to service in the army in Iraq. In places it is rightly critical of his immediate supervisors and the personal impact of policing when budgets have been cut by 20%:https://beatstigma.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/about-me/
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society Paperback – June 22, 2009
    by Dave Grossman

    The good news is that most soldiers are loath to kill. But armies have developed sophisticated ways of overcoming this instinctive aversion. And contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army's conditioning techniques, and, according to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's thesis, is responsible for our rising rate of murder among the young.

    Upon its initial publication, ON KILLING was hailed as a landmark study of the techniques the military uses to overcome the powerful reluctance to kill, of how killing affects soldiers, and of the societal implications of escalating violence. Now, Grossman has updated this classic work to include information on 21st-century military conflicts, recent trends in crime, suicide bombings, school shootings, and more. The result is a work certain to be relevant and important for decades to come
    http://www.amazon.com/On-Killing-Psy.../dp/0316040932
    A scrimmage in a Border Station
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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Terror and rage: what makes a mass murderer different to a terrorist?

    An interesting article by Jeff Sparrow, the author of a 2009 book 'Killing: Misadventures in Violence', which covers many current issues and has several links:https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/04/terror-and-rage-what-makes-a-mass-murderer-different-to-a-terrorist?

    Two book reviews via Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/product-revie...owViewpoints=1
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-04-2016 at 01:19 PM. Reason: 9,933v
    davidbfpo

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