The Network goes to Force Science Institute
by Marty Hayes, J.D.
In February, I had the good fortune to be accepted into and attend the world renown Force Science Institute Certification Course. This training had been on my radar screen for at least 10 years, and I had even applied once to attend, although at that time, they were only accepting law enforcement students. I have been following the research of Dr. William Lewinski for years and have used some of the research myself in expert witness work I have done (more about this later). A couple of years ago they opened up the course to non-law enforcement personnel who have a legitimate need for the information, such as private investigators, experts, firearms trainers and attorneys. It is my understanding that there is a screening process if you are not law enforcement, and I have no problem with that requirement. Realistically, both the cost of attending and the time and effort it takes to complete the course pretty much makes enrollment self-screening. Only serious students of the art of self-defense are likely to apply.
The Force Science Institute is run by Dr. William Lewinski (pictured above, right), a former professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota (Mankato) where he started the Force Science Research Center as a part of his police psychology program. After publishing a number of ground-breaking studies about law enforcement uses of force, primarily deadly force, he eventually retired from teaching at the university level and opened the Force Science Institute. He now spends his time offering training to law enforcement use of force trainers, expert witnesses and criminal justice personnel. This year, he is offering about a dozen courses nationwide, and each course will likely see a hundred or so participants. He also works on expert witness cases for law enforcement personnel being charged criminally or sued civilly after a use of force incident, where the case requires a scientific explanation for the actions of the personnel involved.
Additionally, the Force Science Institute is still conducting scientific research, strictly controlled, documented, and peer reviewed. These studies enhance the body of knowledge about dynamics of violent encounters and the aftermath.
While I was not in a position to survey the other students who attended the course I was in, I was able to look at a bunch of name tags. It was my impression that most students worked as law enforcement trainers and administrators and are professionals who want the education to better assist with use of force investigations. I also discovered I was not alone as far as representing the Network. Three additional members of the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc. were in class with me: Steven Baker, Network member and firearms instructor who also is a private investigator, along with two of KRTraining’s instructors, Tracy Thronburg and John Daub. We three sat together during the five days of classroom work, and I was keenly interested to hear Daub’s reaction to several of the issues discussed, as his recent use of force incident (read more at https://americanhandgunner.com/the-ayoob-files/home-invader-the-john-daub-incident/) was clearly in the forefront of his mind.
Also present was attorney and Law of Self-Defense owner Andrew Branca. If you have spent any time in this industry, you will likely have come across his work, either on social media or by taking one of his Law of Self-Defense training courses. It was good to pick his brain about the course and some of his thoughts on the training after hours.
So, if you were to attend this course, what should you expect?
First, expect a professionally-run, week-long seminar. As one who routinely puts on training events, I recognize the tremendous amount of work involved in making a seminar come off successfully, and this course certainly did–from the professionally designed nametags, to the excellent workbook supplied for the course, to the venue (Doubletree by Hilton) complete with coffee service for all five days. I tend to be fairly Spartan in my needs, but it was nice to spend a week in a little more luxury than I am accustomed to, and I appreciated how creature comforts made the attendance of all 40 hours of classroom time go a little smoother.
The curriculum and the level of training matched my expectations, which were pretty high. I was pleasantly surprised with the extremely high quality of the presenters, many of whom had lots of letters behind their names indicating advanced degrees or came from careers that gave them practical experience in law enforcement. Additionally, hearing presentations from many different instructors broke the intensity of the lecture material into digestible blocks.
If you attend a Force Sciences Institute class, you can also expect to be challenged intellectually. The depth of the subject matter rivaled that of my law school education, with one glaring difference. In law school, most of the work was done independently of the course lectures, with a tremendous amount of reading to be done between classes. In law school, students were expected to know and be able to regurgitate the knowledge when tested. In the Force Science course, virtually all the material you were expected to understand was presented by the lecturers. Thank goodness they supplied an extensive 349 page workbook to supplement the material–in which you were expected to take notes and use for your material review prior to testing.
Unfortunately for me, I ignored this protocol and decided to take notes on my computer, in keeping with how I have attended classes for years. My workbook is not written in, and that was a big mistake. I should have put the computer away and just made written notes in the workbook; it would have made the learning much easier. The workbook consists of the PowerPoint slides that the lecturers use to present the material and makes for a good resource for later use. So, heed my warning: if you attend this course, use the workbook for note taking.
That summarizes the impressions of a student taking the course. What about the actual subject matter? I will try to answer, blending my own experiences as an expert witness with the material taught in the course.
My first recollection of using the Force Science studies for cases I worked on as an expert was when I used the ejection pattern research done by Dr. Lewinski in 2010. (See http://www.activeresponsetraining.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ShellCasingStudy.pdf.) Given my own experience as a firearms trainer, with having seen several million cases being ejected from firearms, I have a good base of knowledge to discuss in court what happens to cases after they are ejected from a firearm. Still, it is nice having an authoritative, scientific study to refer to in an expert report or in court, which I have done several times.
In addition to this study, Force Science has done groundbreaking work in studying reaction time issues. This comes into play when a defender fires a shot at a threat whom he is facing, thinking that his life was in danger. When the investigation is complete, the evidence shows a bullet hole in the back of the deceased. How can this occur? Well, the time it takes for the “fire now” signal to reach the trigger finger from the brain is about a quarter of a second–which, interestingly, is about the time it takes for a person to turn 180 degrees. The armed defender could perceive the threat, then focus on the sights and fire the gun. At the same time, the subject turns and ends up taking the bullet in the back. Most of the time when a homicide victim is shot in the back, the person who put that bullet there is arrested for murder. This is the fate of both law enforcement officers and armed citizens.
An additional and very important phenomenon exists in which a person is shooting in a high-stress encounter, shoots several rounds at a threat, and doesn’t stop shooting soon enough to prevent wounds in the side or back. Lewinski’s early study on the “stop shooting” phenomenon has kept many, many officers out of legal trouble, because his research scientifically explains those one or two extra shots. This phenomenon was in play in the Spencer Newcomer defense, which I worked on as an expert and is detailed in a three-part interview with Newcomer and his attorney, published last year. See https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/anatomy-of-a-self-defense-shooting, https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/en/the-anatomy-of-a-self-defense-shooting-pt-2 and https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/the-anatomy-of-a-self-defense-shooting-pt-3.
As time marches on, the Force Science Institute continues to conduct other much-needed research projects, all intended to shine the light of scientific scrutiny onto subject areas where that light is much needed. One such area concerns the post-shooting aftermath issues, which affect both law enforcement and the private sector.
Should the average armed citizen attend this Force Sciences Institute course? Probably not, as in reality, there is very little material covered that could be used by the armed citizen in either setting up strategies for self defense, or in his or her own defense in court. Should the private investigator, firearms instructor or defense attorney attend this course? Absolutely! All of these fields involve the study and analysis of shooting incidents and entail trying to make sense of some very complex issues. Many times, these issues need to be explained in court–most likely by an investigator, firearms instructor serving as an expert, or by a defense attorney. For professionals in these lines of work, I strongly recommend pursuing this educational opportunity. More information can be found at https://www.forcescience.org/.
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