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Klinger University of Missouri Police Responses to Police Shootings 2001

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The author(s) shown below used Federal funds provided by the U.S.
Department of Justice and prepared the following final report:
Document Title:

Police Responses to Officer-Involved Shootings

Author(s):

David Klinger

Document No.:

192286

Date Received:

February 01, 2002

Award Number:

97-IJ-CX-0029

This report has not been published by the U.S. Department of Justice.
To provide better customer service, NCJRS has made this Federallyfunded grant final report available electronically in addition to
traditional paper copies.

Opinions or points of view expressed are those
of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect
the official position or policies of the U.S.
Department of Justice.

OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS*
SHOOTINGS·
POLICE RESPONSES TO OFFICER-INVOLVED

PF;OPERTY OF
National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS)
Box 6000
RockvI!!e. f,fjO 20849-6000

•

-"~.. "

David Klinger
Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice
University
University of Missouri-St.
Missouri-St. Louis

October 16,2001
16,2001

rn

•Award
-ex-0029 from the Office of Justice
*Award number 97-IJ
97-IJ-CX-0029
Justice Programs,
Programs, National Institute
Institute of
Justice,
Justice, Department
Department of Justice.
Justice. Points
Points of view in this document
document are those of the author and do
not necessarily
necessarily represent
represent the official position of the U.S.
US.Department of Justice.
Justice.

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
0

necessarily
of Justice.
necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of

POLICE
POLICE RESPONSES TO OFFICER-INVOLVED
OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS

ABSTRACT
ABSTRACT

•

a

of literature
Research
Research on the use of deadly force
force by police officers includes a limited body of
that examines the consequences of involvement in shootings for officers who pull the trigger.
of shootings: 1) what officers
This
This literature
literature addresses two distinct issues related to the effects of
after shooting incidents. Where the
experience
experience during shootings and 2) what they experiences ujler
first issue
is concerned,
concerned, the research indicates that officers sometimes experience sensory
issue is
of time. Where postdistortions
distortions such
such as
as tunnel vision, auditory blunting, and altered perceptions of
of
shooting
shooting responses are concerned, the literature reports that officers may experience a variety of
short
of
short and long-term reactions that can include recurrent thoughts about the incident a sense of
numbness,
of such responses
numbness. trouble sleeping,
sleeping, sadness,
sadness, crying and nausea.
nausea. Indeed, the existence of
has
has led mental
mental health professionals who work with officers involved in shootings to identify
them as
"post-shooting
as a type of post-traumatic stress response, commonly referred to as “post-shooting
trauma."
trauma.”
research described in this report was undertaken to enhance understanding of
The research
of both
of interviews with 80
aspects
aspects of officers'
officers’ reactions to involvement in shootings.
shootings. It consisted of
caseS where they shot citizens
municipal
municipal and county police officers who reported on 113
113 separate cases
during
their
careers
in
law
enforcement.
The
report
offers
a
review
of
of what previous research has
during
reported about
about officers'
officers’ responses, describes the research procedures utilized in the current work,
reported
provides sketches
sketches of the officers who participated in the current study and of
of the incidents in
provides
shot other human beings, details what the research disclosed about officers’
which they shot
officers'
experiences during and after their shootings,
shootings. and concludes with a discussion of
of the academic
experiences
and policy ramifications of these findings.
and

•
This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
POLICE RESPONSES TO OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS
Research on the use of deadly force
of literature
force by police officers includes a limited body of
that examines
examines the consequences of involvement in shootings for officers who pull the trigger.
This
of
This literature
literature typically conjoins what are actually two distinct issues related to the effects of
shootings:
I ) what officers
officers experience during shootings and 2) what they experiences after
shootings: I)
incidents
incidents in which they shoot. Where the first issue is concerned, the limited research indicates
that many officers experience sensory distortions such as tunnel vision (perceiving but a small
portion of what is
of
is present in the visual field),
field), auditory blunting (the attenuation or exclusion of

•

a

audible sounds),
of the shooting are
sounds), and altered perceptions oftime
of time wherein some segment(s) of
experienced in either slow or fast motion (see, e.g., Nielsen, 1981;
Hom, 1986;
1986;
1981; Solomon and Horn,

Campbell. 1992).
1992). Where post-shooting responses are concerned, the literature reports that
Campbell.
officers may experience a variety of short and long-term reactions. In the immediate aftermath of
officers
of
shootings. officers may experience a variety of mental and/or emotional symptoms such as a

numbness, anxiety,
anxiety, and anger, as well as physical symptoms such as crying and nausea.
sense of numbness,
sense

As time passes,
passes, officers may lose their appetite, have trouble sleeping, experience recurrent
As
thoughts or "flashbacks"
“flashbacks” of the shooting incident, feel guilty about injuring or killing another
thoughts
human. and/or
and/or experience a host of other longer-term responses to the shooting event (see, e.g.,
human.
1 98 1 ; Solomon and Hom,
Horn, ]986;
1986; Campbell, 1992).
1992). Indeed. the existence of
Nielsen. 1981;
of such
has led mental health professionals who work with officers ink
olved in shootings to
responses has
responses
involved

•

3

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

identify them as a type of post-traumatic stress response, commonly referred to as "post-shooting
“post-shooting
trauma"
trauma” (e.g.,
(e.g., Hill, 1984;
1984; Nielsen, 1981;
1981; Strattonetal.,
Stratton et al., 1984).
1984).
The research described in this report was undertaken to enhance understanding of both
aspects of officers'
officers‘ reactions to involvement in shootings. It consisted of interviews with 80
municipal and county police officers who reported on 113
113 separate cases where they shot citizens
during their careers in law enforcement.
enforcement. The balance of this report is devoted to delineating what
the data collected during these interviews tell us about how shootings
shootings affect police officers. It
starts with a detailed review of what previous research has reported about officers'
officers’ responses,
describes the research procedures utilized in the current work, provides sketches of the officers
who participated in the current study and of the incidents in which they shot other human beings,
officers' experiences during and after their shootings,
details what the research disclosed about officers’

•

and concludes with a discussion of the research and policy ramifications of
of these findings.

THE LITERATURE ON RESPONSES TO SHOOTINGS
Much of the literature on what officers experience during and after shootings consists of
1983; Burris, 1985;
1985; Shaw,
expository essays based on non-systematic research (e.g., Bettinger, 1983;
1981).
1981). The few systematic studies that have been published provide a more detailed picture of
Nielsen's (1
(1981)
of 63 municipal, county,
98 1) study of
how police shootings affect involved officers. Nielsen’s

and state law enforcement officers who had shot suspects, for example. found that more than
three-fourths of
of them experienced some notable perceptual distortion during the event (e.g.,
tunnel vision, auditory blunting). Nielsen further reported that during the first week following
the shooting more than 90% of
of the study officers experienced at least one physical
physical symptom,

•

such as nausea, headaches, and general fatigue, and that nearly 90% of
of the shooters experienced
4

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

I

•
0

at
at least one
one emotional or psychological symptom,
symptom, such as depression, anxiety, or intrusive
thoughts
thoughts about the incident. Finally, while Nielsen did not quiz officers about physical,
emotional,
emotional, and psychological responses during any time frame but the first week post-shooting,
he
he did ask them whether they experienced any attitude changes during the first three months
following
80% of the officers Nielsen studied reported that they had;
following their shootings.
shootings. Nearly 80%
increased apathy and cautiousness were the most frequently reported changes.
's (1984)
Stratton
Stratton et al.
al.’s
(1 984) examination of how involvement in shootings affected 60 Los
Nielsen's earlier work. They
Angeles deputy sheriffs
sheriffs offered far less information than did Nielsen’s
reported no data on reactions during shootings and provided only limited information on postshooting responses.
responses. Among the highlights of their findings is that the average deputy
"occasionally"
"some"
“occasionally” experienced recurring thoughts (flashbacks) about the shooting and had “some”

•

problems sleeping during the week immediately after the incident. They further reported
reported a
modest decrease
decrease in the frequency of flashbacks
flashbacks and sleep disturbances that deputies experienced
as
as time passed during the first three months after their shootings (Stratton et al. did not mention

deputies‘ reactions after three months). They also reported that 63% of
of
whether they measured deputies'
deputies surveyed either cried or experienced feelings of
the deputies
of depression, anger, and/or elation’
elation l at
some (unspecified)
(unspecified) point following the shooting. Finally, they reported that 30% of
some
of the deputies
shooting affected them either “greatly”
"a lot,”
lot," that 34% of
of them reported a
indicated that the shooting
"greatly" or “a
“moderate” effect, and the remaining 36% reported that the shooting affected them either “a
"moderate"
"a
little” or "not
“not at all."
all.”
little"

•
0

’

I They used a single indicator that asked the officers’
officers' whether
whether they experienced any of
of these
these four things
things to
to
information.
develop this information.

5

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
e

A more detailed picture of how shootings can affect involved officers comes from
Horn's (1986)
Solomon and Horn’s
(1 986) questionnaire study of 86 Rocky Mountain-area officers who had
shot suspects in the course of their duties.
duties. They reported, for example, that during the events
where they fired their weapons, 83% of the officers experienced some sort of time distortion,
67% experienced some sort of auditory distortion, and 56% experienced some sort of visual
distortion. Where post-shooting experiences are concerned, Solomon and Hom
Horn offered
information about 18
18 specific emotional,
emotional. psychological, and physical reactions that officers may
have experienced. They reported, for example, that 58% of the officers felt a notable degree of
anger in the wake of the shooting, 46% experienced substantial sleep difficulties,
difficulties, and 44% had

bothersome intrusive thoughts. They used information about the 18
18 symptoms to create a
"trauma
“trauma rating"
rating” score for each study officer and asked officers to rate how well they had

0

•

integrated the shooting into their life at the time the questionnaire was administered.
administered. Solomon
and Hom
Horn then examined the relationships between these two measures of how the shootings
shootings
affected the officers and the degree of support the officers felt from various quarters (e.g.,
(e.g.. fellow
officers) following the shooting.
shooting. They reported that the more support officers felt,
felt, the less severe
their response. Finally, Solomon and Hom
Horn reported that the information they used to develop the

3 7% of the officers surveyed experienced "mild"
“mild” posttrauma rating scores indicated that 37%

28% had "severe'"
“severe”
-‘moderate” reactions, and the remaining 28%
shooting reactions, 35% experienced "moderate"
reactions. Unfortunately, the data they collected did not clearly delineate the time frame(s)
frame(s)

during which officers experienced the various reactions they reported, so it is not possible from
officers’ reactions may have varied over time.
Horn’s study to determine how officers'
Solomon and Horn's

•

Horn examined officers'
officers’
Two other studies that were published after Solomon and Hom
6

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

responses to shootings offered data on just one of the two major temporal components involved
Gersons's (1
(1989)
brief
(i.e., reactions during shootings and post-shooting responses). The first, Gersons’s
989) brief
study of37
of 37 Dutch officers who had been involved in shootings, reported only on post-shooting
experiences. Among the more salient findings
findings reported were that 76% of the officers

“hyper-alertness,’‘ and
experienced recurrent thoughts about the event, 68% reported a sense of "hyper-alertness,"
disturbances. Gersons did not offer data on the timing of officers'
43% of them had sleep disturbances.
officers’ postshooting reactions, so it is not possible to derive information on how they might have changed
over time.
While Gersons's
Gersons’s study was limited to officers'
officers’ post-shooting reactions, Artwohl and
Christensen (1997)
(1 997) limited their work to data on responses during shootings, with a focus
focus on

perceptual distortions. The most notable thing about Artwohl and Christensen's
Christensen’s work is that the
•

rates they report for many specific distortions are substantially higher than those reported in other
research.
research. While they report, for example,
example. that 82% ofthe
of the 72 U.S. officers they studied
experienced tunnel vision, the highest rate previously reported is 44% (See Campbell, 1992,
1992.

below). Similarly, where they report a heightened visual detail rate of 65%, the only other study
18%, and while the
to report on this distortion (Solomon and Horn, 1986) reported a rate of 18%,
previous high for rate of auditory blunting was 51%
5 1% (Solomon and Horn), Artwohl and

sound.
Christensen report that 88% of the officers in their research experienced a diminution of sound.
The most comprehensive systematic
systematic research to date on how involvement in shootings
Campbell’s (1992)
(1 992) study of special agents of the Federal
Federal
affects law enforcement officers is Campbell's
(FBI). M.
hich indicted
indicted that FBI agents who are involved in shootings tend
Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
which

•

to have less severe reactions compared with their peers in state and local law enforcement.
7

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

I/

II

•
0

Campbell administered a 16-page questionnaire, which he augmented with structured face-toface
167 agents
agents who had been involved in shootings in the years 1973-1989. He
face interviews,
interviews, to 167
presented his findings
findings in three main categories: 1) physical and emotional responses at the time
of the
the shooting,
shooting, 2) psychological responses following the shooting, and 3) physical and
emotional responses after the shooting. Among the most frequent emotional and physical
experiences
experiences reported during shooting events were a sense of disbelief that the event was
occurring (37%),
(37%), a sense of increased physical strength (46%),
(46%), tunnel vision (44%), and auditory
blunting
blunting (42%).
(42%).
The
The instrument that Campbell used included items for agents to report on the emotional,
psychological, and physical after effects they experienced during the first 24 hours, and then
during
during the rest of the first week following
following their shootings. The instrument also asked agents to

•

@

report
report any
any changes
changes that they may have experienced in their attitudes or emotional states during

the first
first six
six months after the shootings.
shootings. For whatever reason. Campbell limited his presentation
the
the data on agents'
agents’ post-shooting reactions to what they reported experiencing during the first
of the
week following
following the events. Highlights from this data include the information that at some
week
point(s) during
during the first
first week, 62%
62% of the agents experienced recurrent thoughts about the
point(s)
shooting, 29%
29% had dreams
dreams about the shooting, 32% had problems sleeping, 24% were fatigued,
shooting,
and 25% had some sense of anxiety and/or tension.
and
Although Campbell presented no data on temporal variability in agents’
agents' responses, he did

devote considerable
considerable attention to the role that post-shooting events played in agents’
devote
agents' adjustment.
He wrote,
wrote, for
for example,
example, that many agents felt that certain post-shooting events had a negative
He

•

impact on them: 27% stated that they worried a great deal about the Bureau’s
of
impact
Bureau's investigation of

8

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

e

their shooting,
shooting, and 20% identified the news media as a major source of aggravation. On the flip
side
side of the coin,
coin. 60%
60% of the agents
agents believed that discussing their experiences with other agents
who
who had been involved in shootings
shootings helped them to cope with their own shooting. Moreover,
Campbell reported that agents who went through a systematic post-shooting mental health
debriefing (the
Program") typically experienced fewer negative
(the Bureau's
Bureau’s "Post-Critical
“Post-Critical Incident Program”)
consequences
consequences in the wake of their shootings
shootings than their peers who did not.
While
While the extant literature offers a substantial amount of information about what officers
of how shootings affect
experience
experience during and after shootings,
shootings, we still have a very limited picture of
police officers. We know, for example, that perceptual distortions are a common occurrence
during
during shootings, but we have virtually no information on the inter relationships between
different types of distortions,
distortions, how perceptions might change during shooting events, or how

•

Similarly. while we know that some
distortions
distortions might be associated with othetphenomena.
other phenomena. Similarly,
officers
ot‘fcers experience
experience specific physical, emotional,
emotional, and psychological reactions to involvement in a
shooting,
shooting, previous research has not clearly specified how officers'
officers‘ responses vary over time and

we have little
little understanding of how post-shooting reactions might be associated with other
we
factors. The
The research described below was undertaken to provide more information about issues
factors.
as these.
these.
such as
RESEARCH PROCEDURES
Data were gathered via face-to-face interviews with a sample of
of municipal and county

officers and sheriffs
sherifrs deputies
deputies who had shot citizens (see
(see below for the sampling
police officers
employed). The interviews
interviews included two parts.
of the
procedures employed).
parts. The first consisted of

•

administration of a substantially modified and expanded kersion
version of
of the interview schedule that
administration
9

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

m•

John
John Campbell
Campbell (1992)
(1 992) used in his study of FBI agents.
agents. The instrument used in the current study
included
included versions
versions of nearly all of the items Campbell used in his instrument, with modifications
to
to either a)
a) render the schedule
schedule relevant to local and county officers (e.g., items that referred to
"the
“the bureau"
bureau” were
were altered) or b) to increase clarity. The current instrument also included
numerous items not found
found in Campbell's,
Campbell’s, which were added to obtain more comprehensive
measurement of specific topics (e.g., the weapon[s] possessed by subjects, a more complete
inventory of what officers experienced during shooting incidents, and temporal variability in
officers'
of which is presented in
officers’ reactions
reactions following shootings). In total, the instrument (a copy of
the
of
144 major sets of items that covered the following broad areas of
the Appendix) included 144
interest:

•

•

e

Background information about the officer, such as demographic characteristics, law
enforcement experience,
experience, and assignment at time of shooting.

•

Features of the shooting event, such as the number of suspects involved, their weapons,

took, the actions that the subject officer and any other officers present
the actions they took.
took, and the nature of injuries incurred by officers, suspects, and other citizens.
took,
•

The thoughts, feelings,
feelings, and perceptions that subject officers experienced during the
The
shooting
shooting incident.

•

Their physical.
physical, psychological, and emotional experiences after the shooting.

•

The treatment that the subject officers received from others (e.g., family members, fellow

officers, their agency)
agency) following the shooting.
officers,
After completing a separate questionnaire for each incident in which they shot citizens

•

(see details below), each officer met with the Principal Investigator (PI) for an individual audio(see

10

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

taped,
taped, directed interview that was later transcribed.
transcribed. The interviews, which lasted between fortyin, how
five minutes and three hours (depending on how many shootings the officers had been in.
many of the various sorts
sorts of possible responses they experienced, and how expressive they were
with their answers),
answers), focused on five
five major areas that were addressed in the following order: 1)
officers'
officers’ backgrounds and their experiences, thoughts, and feelings regarding deadly force prior
to
of deadly force
to their law enforcement careers, 2) the training they received regarding the use of
during the academy and the field
field training portion of their careers, 3) situations where they did not
fire
fire during circumstances where they believe that the use of deadly force would have been legally
justified, 4) what occurred during the hours that immediately preceded the shootings.
shootings, the
circumstances
circumstances of the shootings,
shootings, and what transpired during the shootings, and 5) what occurred

•
a

in
in the aftermath of the shootings.
shootings.
The
of the data
The five
five phase stmcture
structure was designed to enhance the accuracy and detail of

during the directed interview. The first two stages allowed the subject officers to ease
collected during
into the topic of deadly force.
force. and allowed the PI to build a rapport with them while discussing
discllssing
into
and socialization into police work. The third stage served as a transition during
their background and
focus of the interview shifted from more general and abstract issues regarding policing
which the focus
and deadly force
force to the more specific issue of particular confrontations with citizens. Starting the
and
fourth phase with questions about what occurred in the hours preceding the shootings focused
fourth
officers’ minds on these critical events in an indirect fashion that was intended to get the officers
officers'
thinking in a sequential tashion, and thereby to facilitate recall about what transpired during

situations in which they shot citizens. Finally, the fifth phase of the interview moved
situations

•

frames addressed in the instrument (i.e., what transpired
sequentially through the four time frames

11
11

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
a

during the first 24 hours, the first week, the first three months, and after three months) in order to

allow officers to continue with the sequential presentation their narratives.
Officers'
Officers’ responses to questionnaire
questionnaire items guided the last two phases of the directed
interviews (i.e., the shootings and their aftermath).
aftermath). This served two purposes. First,
First. by giving
officers a chance to describe in their own words their thoughts, feelings,
feelings, and experiences, the

directed interviews yielded details about attitudes, emotions, experiences, and events that could
not be obtained from a questionnaire,
questionnaire, thus creating a more detailed picture of officers'
officers’
involvement with and reactions to the use deadly force. Second, because the directed interviews
covered much of the ground addressed in the questionnaire, they provided a reliability check on
officers'
officers’ responses to questionnaire items. This was accomplished by informally recounting back
to the officers what they had reported on the instrument (e.g., "So
“So prior to firing your weapon
weapon you
•

started to experience things in slow motion, but no other sorts
sorts of distortions").
distortions”). This process
occasionally identified mistakes that officers had made when they marked the questionnaire (e.g.,
(e.g.,

frame something that
failing to report something they experienced, or reporting in one time frame
actually occurred in a different one) and sometimes yielded additional information about some
facet of officers'
officers’ experiences that they had not marked (e.g., "Now
“Now that I think about it. my sense
of visual detail was increased because I could clearly see the hairs on the suspect's
suspect’s ann
arm standing
up").
up”). When an interview yielded additional information about some issue, or disclosed that the

officer had responded incorrectly to an instrument item, the PI told the officer that he M
\\ ished to
alter the instrument to reflect the correct response to the relevant item and then, after ohtaining
the officer's
officer’s permission to make the correction, did so in his or her presence.

•

nou turns to a
With a discussion of the data collection methodology in place, attention now

]2
12

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
e

discussion of how the officers who were interviewed came to be included in the present study.

Selecting the Sample
As the literature review indicates. police shootings can be extremely stressful events.
Even when involvement in a shooting does not produce notable disruption in officers'
officers’ lives,
moreover, officers are often quite wary about discussing their experiences during and after
situations in which they shot people with individuals outside their circle of close acquaintances.
acquaintances.
This is particularly so when a stranger seeks them out with a request to discuss their experiences
in great detail. Because many police officers who have been in shootings would be disinclined to
discuss the incidents and their aftermath in a frank manner with researchers who are complete
strangers (even when the researcher brings the pledge of legally guaranteed confidentiality; see

below), the research employed a sampling strategy intended to reduce the social distance between
•

the PI and the research subjects.
The first step in the sampling process actually occurred before the proposal for the present

research was submitted to the National Institute of Justice (NIl).
(NIJ). Prior to submitting the
NIl funding
funding and the
proposal, the PI secured agreements to participate in the study (contingent on NIJ
confidentiality provisions that would obtain under 42 United States Code 3789g) from several

shootings during their careers in law enforcement. The
acquaintances who had been involved in shootings
step, the PI informed other acquaintances
funding was secured. In this step,
second step occurred after funding
in the police community about the project and asked them for help identifying officers (including
sheriffs deputies) who might be willing to be interviewed.
inter1,iewed. After this, the PI asked the pool of
subject officers developed via the first two steps to help identify others who might be willing to

•

participate in the study.
study.
13

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

I

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This "snowball"
“snowball” methodology resulted in interviews with 81
8 1 officers from 19
19 municipal

and county law enforcement agencies in four states. One officer’s interview was excluded from
the sample because none of the rounds he fired in the sole shooting in which he was involved
struck anyone. Two other officers interviewed were involved in a major shoot-out during which
they and several other officers exchanged numerous shots with two citizens who were barricaded
inside a house that eventually burned to the ground. The post-shooting investigation disclosed
that both citizens had suffered gunshot wounds before their bodies were burned beyond
recognition. While the damage done by the fire precluded a conclusive determination about the
source of the bullet wounds, the officers’ positions and actions during the shoot-out suggest that
each of them did strike at least one of the citizens with gunfire. Consequently, these officers’
interviews were retained in the sample. Each of the 78 other officers who participated in the

@

study were involved in at least one shooting in which bullets they fired definitely struck at least
one citizen.
There are two reasons why strategic infom1ant
informant sampling was employed in this research.
The first
first was to reduce bias in the form of non-response
non-rehponse that would almost certainly have
obtained had a traditional probability sampling strategy been employed. The second was to
enhance the internal validity of research conclusions. Probability sampling techniques are

because they are designed to produce research
generally preferred over other sampling strategies hecause
findings with a high degree of generalizability. But they are not the best for all research settings,
and there is reason to suspect that probability sampling
samlding would have actually produced findings

with less validity than those produced by the research described in this report

•

selection of all officers who had shot in a
Any sort of probability sampling (a random sdection
14

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

e

randomly selected sample of police agencies) would have required that I work with the

knowledge and blessings of police administrators. Because the research would have been linked
with the agency. officers with negative feelings
feelings toward their agency (a fairly common occurrence
in the police world even absent involvement in shootings) or who did not trust their agency
(another common sentiment among police officers) would be negatively disposed toward

participation. Similarly, because the I would have been an unknown entity among the rank and
file officers of the agencies that would have been selected, probability sampling would bias the
sample towards officers who are trusting of outsiders (an
(an uncommon police virtue). Indeed,
several of the officers I interviewed told me the only reason that they agreed to participate in the
study was that they either knew me personally or knew the informant who vouched for my

qualifications. (I did not ask the officers why they agreed to participate. Several
integrity and qualifications.
•

simply offered the above information.) Thus, while one can not know the sorts of bias
introduced in the present sample by the use of the strategic informant technique, it did -- at a
minimum -- substantially reduce non-response bias and thereby enhance the external validity of
the study.
Where internal validity is concerned, it is doubtful that those officers who eventually did

participate in a study based on probability sampling would be forthcoming about questionable
behavior in which they may have engaged, any negative assessments they might have about how
they were treated in the wake of their shootings, and problems they might have experienced. As
detailed later in the report, several of the officers I interviewed told me that they lied to the
mental health professionals (MHP) to whom they were sent by their agency about how they were

..

feeling in the wake of their shootings because they believed that what they told the MHPs might
15

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

a

get back to their superiors. Given this, it is logical to suspect that some number of officers
selected through a probability sampling design would be less than completely truthful with a
department-approved researcher who wandered into their lives asking extremely intimate, and

potentially incriminating, questions. As the snowball methodology produced a sample of officers
who willingly participated in the research because they had either a personal or once removed
link with the researcher, it is almost certain that the sampling technique used in the present study
increased the internal validity of the findings
findings produced.
The 80 officers in the final sample were involved in 147
147 incidents where they discharged
their firearms.
firearms. Forty-five of the officers were involved in one incident,
incident, 21
2 1 were involved in two,
5 were involved in three, 6 were involved in four,
four, 3 were involved in five, and 1 was involved in
six shootings. Counted among these 147
147 incidents were those in which the officers fired at

a

•

citizens and missed. shot inanimate objects (such as motor vehicles), shot animals, accidently
fired their weapons,
weapons. and other sorts of cases where no humans were struck
stnic k by study officers'
officers’
gunshots. Because the study was undertaken to examine officers'
officers’ responses to shooting humans,
the officers did not complete questionnaires regarding incidents in which their bullets struck no
one.
one. Also, two officers who had been involved in multiple shootings could not spare the time to

shootings, the
report on all of them. One of them completed questionnaires for four of his six shootings,
other for three of his four.
four.*2 Both were briefly queried about the other shootings during the
directed interviews.
interviews.

questionnaire, 16 completed two, 7
In the end. 56 of the study officers completed a single questionnaire,
four. The interview process thus resulted in 113
1 13
completed three. and I1 officer completed four.

•

two officers
’ The tivo
ofticers selected the shootings they complete questionnaires on with no direction
Girection from the PI.

2

16

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

II

•

a

3

completed
completed questionnaires
questionnaires regarding
regarding 113
1 13 instances
instances in which study
study officers
officers shot citizens.
citi~ens.~

FINDINGS

I

Presentation of what analysis
analysis of the 113
1 13 shooting incidents
incidents disclosed begins with
background information about the officers
officers and the circumstances of their shootings.
shootings. In order to
to
facilitate
facilitate speedy comprehension of this material,
material, it is
is presented in outline form.
form.

OFFICERS
PROFILE OF STUDY OFFICERS
follows provides some sense
sense of these subject officers
officers and
The bulleted information that follows
shootings they reported on in this study.
the shootings

•

female officers.
The sample includes 74 male officers and 6 female

•

AsiadPacific
Sixty-two of the officers were white, nine were Hispanic, four were Asian/Pacific

0

•
0

“other”
Islander, three were black, and two described themselves as having some "other"
(e.g., Native American).
racial/ethnic background (e.g.,
•0

21 to 49, with a mean
The ages of these officers at the time of the shootings ranged from 21
of 32.

•

The amount of time they had spent as police officers prior to the shootings ranged from
less than a year to 27 years, with a mean of
just under 8 years.
ofjust

•

0

The vast majority of the research subjects (75) held the rank of "police
“police officer”
officer" (or
“deputy
"deputy sheriff’)
sheriff') at the time of
of the shootings; four were sergeants; and one was involved

3

•

3 Because the study was undertaken to examine individuals officers’
officers' responses to events in
ill which they shot
people, each officer‘s
experiences
as
they
pertain
to
a
given
shooting
are
treated
as
separate
cast‘s.
officer's
cases. The vast majority
of
9 8 ) were completely independent of
of the cases in the sample ((98)
of one another, bur
but I5
15 of
of them resultcd
resulted from incidents
where other officers in the sample also shot the citizen. These non independent cases involved iia total of
of seven
shootings; six in which two of the officers intervicwed
intervit'wed shot the suspect(s) and one in which tlirrte
three did.

17

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(

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a

in shootings both prior to and after being promoted to sergeant.
sergeant.
CIRCUMSTANCES
CIRCUMSTANCES OF SHOOTINGS
SHOOTINGS
•e

Nearly half (54) ofthe
of the shootings occurred while the officers involved were working
general patrol assignments.
assignments. Because the sample included a disproportionate number of
officers whose work includes assignment to their agency's special weapons and tactics
(SWAT) teams,4
teams," a substantial minority of the shootings (37)
(37) occurred during tactical
operations. Fourteen of the SWAT shootings involved barricaded subjects, 6 were
whi Ie officers served high-risk search and arrest warrants
hostage incidents, 14
14 occurred while
(14),
(14), and the remaining 3 took place during miscellaneous SWAT
SWAT activities. The 22
other shootings occurred during an array of circumstances that include undercover work,

•

crime suppression patrol, and off-duty situations.

e *
•

Other officers were present in 103
103 of the shootings and fired shots in 51
5 1 of them.

•e

Subject officers faced a single suspect in more than three-fourths (89) of the shootings,
two suspects in 13
13 shootings,
shootings. three suspects in 5 others, four suspects in 4 instances, and
five
each.
five and six suspects in 1 shooting each.

•e

In the 89 shootings in which officers faced a single opponent, the suspect was armed with
some type of firearm
21 cases,
firearm in 56 cases, knives or other edged weapons (e.g., axes) in 21

(such as baseball bats, toy guns, and vehicles) in 9 other
miscellaneous other weapons (such
cases, and no weapons (i.e.. the suspect was unarmed) in 3 cases. Among the 56 suspects
J
4

•

a

For the last few years the PI has been involved
imolved in research regarding and training of special weapons and
(SWAT)
Consequently. many of his contacts in the law enforcement community have
tactics (S
WAT) teams and officers. Consequently.
been or are involved in SWAT work. As a result. many of the officers initially sought to participate in this project
have SWAT experience. Given the nature of social networks, many of the officers referred to the PI by the officers
in the initial pool also have SWAT backgrounds. The potential ramifications of the over-sample of SWAT shootings
is addressed later in
in this report.

18
18

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

who
who were
were armed with guns,
guns, 30 had a single handgun, 11
11 possessed a single shotgun, 5
firearms~ and 2 others carried
carried
carried a single
single rifle, 8 others were stocked with multiple firearms,

both a firearm
firearm and some other type of weapon.
weapon.

•a

In
In one
one of the 24 cases with multiple
multiple suspects,
suspects, none of the suspects carried any weapons.
In 12
of
12 of the remaining 23
23 cases, only one suspect was armed, most often with a firearm of
some
(N=lO). Among the 11
1 1 cases where multiple suspects possessed weapons, at
some sort (N=10).
of opponents
least
least two of the suspects
suspects carried
carried firearms
firearms in 9 of them. The largest number of
any
any officer faced was six,
six, five
five of whom were armed with guns. In this case, the other
four
four suspects
suspects dropped their weapons and surrendered immediately after the officer shot
the first
first gunman.
gunman. The most extreme
extreme multiple-suspect case involved an officer who was
of whom were
by himself when he engaged in a gun battle with four bank robbers, three of

•

armed
armed with assault rifles.
rifles. The officer somehow managed to incapacitate one robber and
drive
drive the rest away while sustaining
sustaining only minor injuries himself, even though the only
gun he carried jammed early in the firefight.
tirefight.
•a

113 cases, 60 suspects died.
died, 43 incurred wounds that required hospitalization,
Across the 113
while 5 others received minor wounds.’
wounds. 5 One of
of the suspects who received minor wounds

definitely would have suffered far more serious wounds (perhaps fatal ones) if
definitely
if not for the
body armor he was wearing, which prevented the subject officers’
officers' rounds from
case. a suspect who suffered severe gunshot wounds to
penetrating his torso. In another cast..
if his body armor had not stopped
his head and legs almost certainly Lvould
\vould have died if

•
0

The number of
of suspects shot sums to les4
,’ The
less than the number of
of cases because the sample includes seven
incidents where more than one of the involvcd
shooting incidents
involved officers was interviewed
interviewed. See footnote 33 above for
for
additional information.
inhrination.
additional

19

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

(

•
e

other rounds fired by the subject officer from entering his chest cavity.
cavity.

•e

Subject officers received injuries requiring hospitalization in six cases and minor injuries
in eight others. Among the officers whose wounds required hospital treatment were five
five
struck by gunfire and one who suffered a severe laceration when his assailant slashed him

with a butcher knife. The most serious injuries suffered by a subject officer were caused
by a through-and-through gunshot that traversed the officer's torso from front to back.
The extensive internal damage caused by the bullet included such massive bleeding that

officer's heart stopped beating on three separate occasions before medical personnel
the officer's
could stabilize her.

•

•
0

13 cases, 1 of them fatally.
Other officers were injured in 13

•

Citizens suffered non-fatal injuries at the hands of suspects in eight cases and fatal
injuries in two others.
With this information about the officers and the circumstances of their shootings in hand,

shootings. The task begins with a
attention now turns to officers' responses to involvement in shootings.
discussion that identifies the specific information the current study sought about what officers
experience during shootings.
RESPONSES DURING SHOOTINGS

sorts of
ot' experiences officers
The current study includes information about two distinct sorts
1) thoughts and feelings and 2) perceptual distortions.
may have had during shooting events: I)
Previous studies of such responses have treated shootings as unitary events. simply measuring
and reporting whether officers experienced specific phenomena during the situation where they

•

fired.
fired.

20

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

i

(

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oftraumatic
Research on human responses during other sorts of
traumatic events, however, indicates that
individuals' experiences can vary over the course of a given stressful episode (e.g., Girelli et al.,
aI.,
individuals’
1986).
1986). Consequently, the instrument used in the current study queried officers about thoughts/

feelings and perceptual distortions during two distinct points in the shooting incidents: 1) prior to
firing weapons and 2) the moments during which and immediately after they fired their guns.
Where thoughts/feelings are concerned, the instrument included items for officers to indicate
whether they experienced

•

•a

a sense of disbelief

•a

fear for self

•a

fear for others

•a

a need to survive

m a
•

a rush of strength or adrenalin

•a

intrusive thoughts about irrelevant matters

•a

any other specific thoughts or feelings.
feelings.
Regarding perceptual distortions,
distortions, the instrument used in the current research included

items that queried officers about whether they experienced any of the following phenomena prior
to firing
firing and upon/after
upordafter firing:
firing:

•

•a

tunnel vision
vision
tunnel

•a

heightened visual
visual acuity
acuity
heightened

•a

diminished sound
sound
diminished

•a

amplified sound
sound
amplified

•a

time passing more slowing than usual (i.e,
(i.e, slow motion)
motion)

21
21

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

a

•

time passing more quickly than usual (i.e., fast motion)

•

any other perceptual distortions.
of officers'
officers' responses
The data set thus includes information about four distinct categories of

during shootings:
perceptual
shootings: 1)
1) thoughts/feelings prior to discharging their weapons, 2) perceptual
distortions prior to discharging their weapons, 3) thoughtdfeelings
thoughts/feelings w
upon
o n and after discharging
their weapons, 4) perceptual distortions upon and after discharging their weapons. For
simplicity's sake,
"while"
sake, the second time frame will henceforth be referred to with terms such as "while"
and "as"
"as" firing.
firing. The presentation of what the current research disclosed about officer' responses
of the two time points, then move on
during shootings will first address thoughts/feelings at each of
to
to perceptual distortions.

•

a

Thoughts/Feelings
Though ts/Feel ings
In order to develop some sense of how the current data compare with what previous
inquiries have reported about officers' mental and emotional experiences during shootings, the
first
of the several sorts
first analytical step
step taken was to find out how often officers experienced each of

feelings at
ut any
uny time during the 113
113 shootings studied. Overall, officers reportcd
of thoughts and feelings
reported

10 (97%)
experiencing at least one of the thoughts/feelings
thoughtdfeelings listed in the instrument in 1110
(97%) of
of the
experiencing
shootings. In the specific
specific response categories, officers experienced fear for others in 60%, a ruch
shootings.
rush
of strength or adrenalin rush in 55%. disbelief in 42% of the cases. fear for self in 41 %, need tl'

1

survive in 30%, intrusive thoughts in 14%,
14%, and miscellaneous '-other"
\''6
survive
"other" emotions/thoughts in 33·"'0
ith what previous
of the shootings. Table 1 compares these figures (where possible) M
with

•

22

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

a

•

research has reported.
reported.66 The table shows that officers in the current study more frequently
frequently
experienced each of the specific
specific responses
responses that Campbell (1992)
(1992) measured in his FBI subjects.
subjects. It
also shows that the officers in the current study less frequently experienced fear for self and more
frequently experienced fear for others than did the officers that Neilsen (1980)
(1 980) surveyed,
surveyed, and that
they less frequently had intrusive thoughts than did the officers in Artwhol and Christensen's
Christensen’s
(1997)
(1997) research. With this information
information in hand, attention now turns to the more fine-grained
fine-grained
look at what officers think and feel
feel during shootings,
shootings, which is provided by the current study's
study’s
measurement of these responses during two distinct segments oftime
of time (i.e., prior to and while
pulling the trigger).

•

INSERT TABLE 1 ABOUT HERE

ofthe
thoughts!
Prior to pulling the trigger, officers experienced at least one of
the six specific thoughts/

feelings
102 (90%) of
of the cases, while in 6 others the involved
feelings delineated on the instrument in 102
"other" specific thought or feeling.
feeling. Thus, sutject
subject
officers reported experiencing only some “other”
least one specific thought or feeling prior to shooting in 96% of the
officers recalled having at feast
of each thought/feeling prior to firing,
firing, officers reported
cases studied. Regarding the prevalence of
safety of others in 54%. a rush of
of strength or adrenalin in 44%. fear for
experiencing fear for the safetc

that the incident was happening in slightlj
their own safety in 35%,
of disbelief
disbeliefthat
slightly less than
35%, a sense of

•
0

6 In this, and all other tables that compare data from the current research with that reported in previous
studies how shootings affect police officers, studies that did not provide any information about the specitic subject in
question are simply excluded froin
from the table. In Table 1, lor
for example, Solomon and Horn
Hom (1986), Strattoil
Stratton et al.
( 1984),
1984), and Gersons (1989) are all absent because none provided
provided any data on officers’
officers' thoughts/feelings
thoughts/feelings during
shootings.
J'l
_J

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and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

I/

Ii

a

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one-third (32%) of the shootings, a need to survive in just over a quarter (27%),
(27%), intrusive
thoughts about irrelevant matters in 10%.7
1O%.7 and some "other"
“other” thought or feeling in 29%
29% of the
cases.
cases. Counted among these "other"
“other” thoughts/feelings were concerns
concerns about the tactical situation
that the officers faced (e.g., being in a cross-fire with other officers); apprehension
apprehension about the

placement of shots officers were about to fire;
fire; a sense
sense of calm; anger at the suspect for trying to
harm them or some innocent third party; attention to the weapon the suspect carried; and, in one
case,
case, a reaction that the officer could only describe as thinking "Oh,
“Oh, Shit!!"
Slit!!” just before being run
down by a suspect driving a truck.

As was the case prior to firing their weapons, officers reported at least one specific
thought or feeling as or immediately after they fired in 96% of the cases. They experienced fear

disbelief in 34% of the cases,
cases.
for others in 49%, a sense of strength or adrenalin rush in 46%, disbelief
•

fear for self in 30%, a need to survive in 23%, intrusive thoughts in 9%, and some other specific
thought or feeling in 30% of the cases. Officers experiencing such "other"
“other” responses reported.
among other things, being angry at the suspect, wondering if the shots they were firing were

justified, concern that the suspect did not go down immediately upon being struck with the initial
bullets fired, and a sense of confusion
confusion over
oker what was happening because they did not realize that
they had just fired (see discussion on pages 44 and 45 belou
below for more on this point). The figures

regarding officers'
officers’ thoughts
thoughts and feelings a both time period5
periods are presented in Table 2 below.

INSERT TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE
INSERT

•

focus on officers'
officers’ loved ones. This!s
This 1s also the case where intrusive thoiichts
7 These thoughts tended to ti)Cus
thoughts
iipoti firing
tiring goes.
goes.
upon

24

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and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

The
The Role ofFear
of Fear
One
One thing that stands out in the foregoing
foregoing discussion is that it appears that many officers
experienced no sense
sense of fear
fear either prior to or as they shot, which at first might strike one as odd
inasmuch as
as the standard for the justifiable use of deadly force in law enforcement is that officers
perceive that their life or limb,
limb, or the life or limb of a third party, is in imminent peril. A more
detailed look
look at the data indicates that the frequencies
frequencies reported above do not tell the entire story,
of fear reported (i.e., fear for self
self
however.
however. First, moving from
from the gross rates of the four aspects of
prior to
to firing,
firing, fear
fear for others prior to firing,
firing, etc.) into case-specific frequencies indicates that
70%
70% of the
the time (N=79) officers felt fear either for themselves, others, or both, prior to firing, as
of the cases did study officers
they fired,
fired, or at both time periods. Thus, in a substantial majority of

0

•

experience
experience a sense
sense of fear for someone's safety at some point during the shootings in which they

Second, information developed during the directed interviews indicates that the
were involved. Second,
officers who
who did not report feeling fearful often recalled that they believed that their safety.
officers
safety, the
safety of a third party, or both, was in jeopardy at some point in their shootings.

Many of the officers who had not indicated on the questionnaire that they felt fearful
of the
indicated during the directed portion of the interviews that they perceived that the actions of

suspect(s) they shot had placed their safety, the safety of another, or both in imminent peril, but
suspect(s)
fear. Thus,
Thus. the negative responses to the "fear"
they had not experienced the emotion of fear.
"fear"
that they
items on the questionnaire were indicative not of the fact that some officers did not believe that
items
anyone's life was in danger, but rather simply that the intellectual understanding that they oorr

•

25

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•

someone
trepidation. s
someone else
else was in extreme danger did not translate into emotional trepidation.’
of the fear that
The directed interviews also
also provided additional insights into the nature of
officers
officers experienced.
experienced. Perhaps
Perhaps the
the most interesting impression in this connection is that what
,

officers
is not always commensurate with the actual degree of
officers experience
experience in terms of fear
fear is
immediate
immediate threat posed to self and others by suspects. Two officers who shot unarmed suspects,
for
for example,
example, were quite fearful
fearful that they were about to be shot themselves because they believed
that
that the
the suspects
suspects in fact
fact possessed guns.
guns. At the other extreme, an officer who was seriously
injured
injured by a gunman who shot her as she was drawing her weapon did not experience any fear for
her safety
safety either before or after she began to return fire.
fire.
of officers’
officers'
Other cases illustrate a different twist on the objective threat theme: the object of
fear
fear is
is not always
always the person in the most immediate danger. In one such case, an officer who shot
•

of
two
two armed
armed suspects
suspects at the end of a vehicle pursuit that terminated in the empty front yard of
private
private home reported that while he felt no fear for himself. he was quite fearful (both before and
upon firing)
of them were present when the
firing) for the residents of the house, even though none of

’

•
0

S The case of an officer who shot a suspect immediately after being slashed with an large knife (opening
(opening a
wound that required more than five dozen stitches to close) is illustrative of
of how officers who shoot can have an
intellectual appreciation of danger, but experience no fear. He reported that he was thinking:
“I don't
don’t want to get cut again. 1I could start feeling [my]
.... I1
"I
[my) clothes get wet. I1 knew I1 was bleeding and
and....
don’t want to get cut again. The only way 1I can solve this real fast is to shoot this guy and take him down.”
don't
down."
He went on to report that:
“never at any point along the way was [there]
"never
[there] any feeling like fear as a cold feeling in the pit
pit of
ofyour
your
‘Oh my God, I’m
stomach, 'Oh
I'm going to die’
die' or ‘I’m
'I'm really hurt.’
hurt.' That never
never at any point from start to
to finish
finish
there have been times [on this Job]
[crossed my mind]. Oh, there
job] when I’ve
I've been scared shitless,
shitless, ready to piss my
Absolutely. But this, it just never, never happened here. Fear means an actual physical
pants. Absolutely.
physical reaction
reaction that
feel where you
YOLIare in fear where you feel absolutely
you feel
absolutely life threatened.
threatened. This was really
really honestly more
that.“
detached than that.'·
The officer also reported that he was surprised at how calm he felt during and after the shooting, describing his mindmindset as one of being in a "problem-solving"
“problem-solving” mode, relating that he -‘has
"was really surprised”
surprised" that he had
had no
no fear of
of dying,
dying,
reporting and that he was "shocked"
“shocked” at that because he “thought
"thought that there would be [fear]”
[fear]" under those
circumstances.

26

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•

e

shooting
if he did not shoot the gunmen
shooting occurred. The
The officer explained that he was worried that if
pointed 41;
piss weapon toward
toward the
(one
(one of whom was running toward the house when he turned and pointed
pursuing
pursuing officer) that they would invade the house and take the family hostage. In another case
involving
involving fear for
for others, the officer involved in the wild shootout with four bank robbers
mentioned on page 19
19 reported that his feelings of fear shifted during the incident. Prior to firing
his
his first shot, he was fearful
fearful for both himself and other people in the bank, believing that
everyone present was in grave danger of being killed. Once he started shooting, however, the
fear
fear he felt
felt for
for himself evaporated as the sense that he had to protect the bank customers and
of the
employees
employees took over. Thus, even though the officer was in a furious gun battle where all of
shots
shots fired by the robbers were directed at him, the only fear he felt was for others.

•

0

Perceptual
PerceDtual Distortions
of
As was the case with thoughts/feelings,
thoughts/feelings, the first analytical step taken in the analysis of

was to find out how often officers experienced perceptual distortions at any
altered perceptions was

1 13 shootings studied. Overall, officers reported experiencing at least one
time during the 113
distortion (including "other")
--other”)in 107
107 (95%) of the cases. The single distortion most commonly
sound, which occurred in 82% of
of the cases. On the flip side of
of the
experienced was diminished sound,
coin, officers perceived some noises as being exceptionally loud in 20% of
of the cases.
auditory coin,

5 1%
YOof the cases and having a heightened sense of
of
Officers reported getting tunnel vision in 51
for time distortions, officers experienced slow motion in 56%
visual detail in 56%. As for
56% of
of the
shootings and fast motion in 23%.
23%. Finally, officers reported experiencing some “other”
"other"
shootings
distortion 13%
13% of the time. Table 3 sets these figures in
in relief with distortion statistics from

•

previous research to make for easy comparisons (where
(where possible) with what other studies have
27

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/(

iI

•

reported about perceptual alterations during shootings.
shootings.

INSERT TABLE 3 ABOUT HERE

of the
Among the more interesting components of Table 3 is the graphic representation ofthe
substantial variability in distortion rates across previous studies, which was mentioned in the
literature review above. Most notable in this regard is that the officers in Artwohl and
Christensen's (1997)
(1 997) study were 3.6 times as likely to experience heightened visual detail than
were the officers Solomon and Hom
Horn (1986)
(1 986) surveyed. Where the current data are concerned,
frequencies for four of the six specific distortions measured -- tunnel vision, visual detail,

••

0

diminished sound, and slow motion -- fall within the range reported in previous
previolls studies,
studies. while the
figures for the remaining two -- intensified sound and fast motion -- exceeded slightly the high

previously reported.
reported. With this comparative information in hand,9
hand,g attention now turns to a topic
not considered in the previous research that addresses perceptual distortions during officerinvolved shootings; the temporal dimension.
dimension.
Officers in the current study experienced at least one of the several types of distortions
distortions

prior to firing their weapon in 88% of the shootings examined. The most frequently reported
anomalies
distortions were visual in nature, with officers experiencing one or both of the visual
visualanomalies

(78%) of the cases. They reported having a
listed on the instrument in more that three-quarters (78%)

•

( 1986) calculated overall rates for visual, auditory, and time distortions. They
lhey
9 Solomon and Horn (1986)
their.research
vision, heightened visual
reported that 56% of the officers participating in their.
research experienced either tunnel vision.
sorts of
ofauditory
detail, or both at some point during their shootings; 63% experienced one or both of the sorts
auditory distortions;
82% for
in
the
current
data are 82%
and 83% experienced one or both of the time distortions. The comparable figures
66% for time distortions.
85%'for
visual, 85%
for auditory. and 66%

28

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•

heightened sense of visual acuity about some aspect of what they saw (e.g., the suspects weapon)
in 37% of the cases, tunnel vision in 31
phenomt:;na in an additional
3 1%
% of the others, and both phenomqna
10%.
10%. Officers'
Officers’ auditory perceptions were altered in more than half
half the cases, as they experienced
a diminution of sound in 42% of the shootings and an intensification in 10%
10% (no officers reported
experiencing both before firing).
firing). Time distortions occurred in 55%
55% of the cases, with slow
motion (43%) occurring far more often than fast motion (12%;
(1 2%; again no one reported both
phenomenon). Finally, officers reported experiencing some other sort of distortion prior to firing

just 6% of the time.
Officers experienced perceptual distortions at an even higher overall rate as they fired,

reporting at least one in 94% of the cases. The occurrence frequencies for visual and time
distortions at the time of firing were only slightly different from those observed prior to doing so

e

•

3 1% prior for tunnel vision, 35% vs. 37% for heightened detail,
detail, 11
11%
% vs. 10%
10%
-- 27% during vs. 31
for both visual distortions; and 40% vs. 43% for slow motion, 17%
17% vs. 12%
12% for fast motion, and

distortions. The rates for auditory distortions changed substantially
2% vs. 0% for both time distortions.
from 42% to
across the two time frames, however, as the rate of auditory blunting increased from
figure for increased loudness was halved from 10%
10% to 5%, and the portion of cases in
70%, the figure

8%. Finally. the rate of
aberrations rose from 0% to 8%.
which officers experienced both auditory aberrations
6% to 9%.
9%. The statistics for distortions during both
“other” distortions increased slightly, from 6%
"other"
time periods are presented in Table 4. Figures 11 through 6 present this information as a series of

pie charts, each of which displays the percentage of cases in which officers experienced the
o f distortions (i.e., visual, audito!).
auditorq, and time) for
specific manifestations of one of the three types of

•

tiring)..
one of the two time periods (i.e., prior to or while firing)
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•

INSERT TABLE 4 ABOUT HERE
INSERT FIGURES 1 THROUGH 6 ABOUT HERE

Temporal Variability in Distortion
While the numbers regarding visual, time, and "other"
“other” distortions reported above suggest
that these perceptual anomalies are fairly stable during shootings,
shootings, comparing what each officer
experienced prior to pulling the trigger with the their perceptions while they fired discloses far
more dynamism than indicated by the raw distortion rates. The case-by-case comparison
.

indicated that in some cases a given distortion (e.g., visual) began as officers fired,
fired, while in
others the same distortion, which began prior to firing,
firing, ended when the officers fired their
weapons. In other words, many of the perceptual changes between the two time periods canceled

1)

•

each other out in the aggregated data. Indeed,
Indeed. a closer look at the data indicates that the degree
of change in auditory anomalies
anomalies is even more marked than the raw data suggest:
suggest: officers reported
diminished sound prior to firing in 42% of the cases vs. 70% while firing.
firing.
The case-by-case comparisons indicate that time distortions were the most consistent

of the 113
1 13 cases. Officers
across the two time frames measured, with concordance in 78 (69%) ofthe
experienced no distortion at either point in time in 38 the cases, slow motion at both points in 32

in time distortions, the following
cases, and fast motion at both in 8 others. For changes in

12 discordant cases in which officers experienced no
differences were observed: Among the 12
distortions prior to shooting, 8 moved to slow motion and four 4 to fast motion as the officers

17 discordant cases in which officers experienced slow motion prior to
fired. Among the 17
fired.

•

shooting, time returned to normal in 9 of them. moved to fast motion in 7, and was experienced

30

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•
c

in both slow and fast motion in 1 other as the officers
officers fired.
fired. Among the six discordant cases
where officers experienced fast motion prior to firing,
firing, time moved to slow motion in five and

was experienced as both slow and fast in one other.
other.
Visual distortions were slightly less stable than temporal anomalies, as officers ocular
experiences were consistent in 76 (67%)
(67%) of the cases. Officers experienced normal vision
throughout their shootings in 20 cases, tunnel vision both prior to and while firing
firing in 22,
heightened visual acuity at both time points in 28, and both tunnel vision and a heightened sense
of detail
detail at both points in time in 6 cases. The following changes in what officers experienced
visually were observed: In three cases in which officers experienced no visual distortions prior to

fired, while in two other cases officers
discharging their weapons, tunnel vision set in as they fired,
of visual detail as they fired."
fired. 10
who had no distortion prior to firing had a heightened sense of
•

Among the 13
13 discordant cases where officers experienced tunnel vision prior to firing, the
of detail in five
tunnel effect gave way to normal vision in five cases and a heightened sense of

others, while heightened visual acuity was added to the initial tunnel vision in three others.
firing, the sense of
of
Among the 14 discordant cases that involved heightened visual detail prior to firing,

detail disappeared in five cases, gave way to tunnel vision in six others, and was joined by the
tunnel effect in three others. Finally, in the five discordant cases where officers had experienced
firing, upon firing none moved exclusively to tunnel vision, the
both visual anomalies prior to firing,

tunnel aspect disappeared - leaving only heightened detail - in four others, and normal vision

•

e

l10
o Among the more dramatic instances of heightened
heightened visual detail comes from a case where two SWAT
officers serving an arrest warrant
warrant on a murder
murder suspect simultaneously
simultaneously fired as the suspect pointed a handgun at them.
of his
Both officers reported that they saw some of
of their bullets strike the suspect, causing his shirt to pop-up off
offofhis
body with each successive hit.

31

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e
•

returned in a single case.
officers' perceptions remained stable only 53% of
of the time (Le.,
(i.e.,
With auditory anomalies, officers’

in 60 cases). The most dramatic shift observed was from normal hearing prior to firing (which
was the modal response; N=55) to diminished sound upon doing so, which happened in 34
cases. In four other cases, officers who reported normal hearing prior to firing experienced both
of the time when
reduced and increased auditory acuity as they fired.
fired. In other words, 69% of
officers experienced normal hearing prior to firing,
firing, they experienced auditory blunting upon
firing.
firing.
Information from the directed interviews offers additional insight about the nature of the

remarkable attenuation of auditory acuity that so many officers (70% overall) experienced as they
shot.
shot. The vast majority of the officers who reported diminished sound upon firing (either by
•

itself
itself or in concert with increased sound) indicated that it was their own gunshot(s) that was
muted. Many officers who experienced this phenomenon reported that their shots sounded like a
"cap
“cap gun"
gun” or "pop
”pop gun";
gun”; others stated that the gunshots simply were not as loud as they "should"
“should”
have been,
been,”II and a small number of officers
officers reported that they did not hear their rounds going off
at all. The most extreme case of auditory distortion that included diminished sound involved a
SWAT officer who fired a single
single several-round burst from
from a fully-automatic
fully-automatic submachine gun at a
barricaded gunman.
gunman. He reported that while he did not hear his gunshots, he did hear the "clack“clack-

a

•

II
” Officers who reported that their gunshots were muted typically indicated that they made this judgment
measured against the numerous times they had heard the reports of shots they and other officers
officers had fired on the
police gun range and during other forms
forms of training. Several of these officers expressed amazement that the shots
shots
they (and sometimes other officers) fired during confrontations with suspects were not very loud.
loud. Among the more
compelling of these stories concerns
SWAT marksman who fired a single round from his sniper rifle at the same
concerns a SWAT
instant that his partner fired. Both officers were inside the same small room, yet the officer in question reported that
soft. He reported that he knew that the sound should have been deafening and that
the twin gunshots sounded quite soft.
he can not understand why it wasn't.
wasn’t.

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I

•

e

clack"
forward, ejecting spent
clack” sound of the weapon cycling as the slide moved backwards and forward,
casings
casings and delivering fresh
fresh rounds to the breech.

1

The
The dramatic onset of auditory blunting in the form of diminished gunshots raises an
interesting
interesting question about the nature of perceptual distortions during police shootings: Does
auditory
auditory attenuation actually begin at the point when officers fire, or do they simply notice a
phenomenon that had set in at an earlier point because they possess a marked auditory baseline of
of
what shots
shots should sound like (from all the shooting they do in training) against which to compare
what they
provided
they are
are experiencing? If the first possibility is correct, the current research has provided
some
If it is the
some interesting insight into how perceptual distortions arise during police shootings. If
of distortion
. latter,
latter, on the other hand,
hand, this would suggest that officers experience a greater degree of
than they
they consciously perceive and thus that the picture painted by the current data regarding the
•

as clear as it might first appear.
timing of distortions is not as
from another aspect of the data on perceptual distortions supports the
Additional evidence from
this latter possibility. As previously noted, officers reported experiencing some distortion(s) not

among the six
six sorts
sorts specified on the research instrument prior to firing in 6% and upon firing in
among

9% of the of the cases in the current study.
study. Several of the officers reporting these “other”
"other"
9%
anomalies indicated that one of the "other"
“other” distortions they experienced was a
perceptual anomalies
sense of distance,
distance, where the actual distances between themselves, suspects, other
distorted sense
officers, citizen bystanders, and inanimate objects (e.g., vehicles) were either far greater or less
officers.
than they had perceived at the time of the shooting. The intriguing aspect of such reports is that
officers’ realizations
I-ttalizationsthat they had incorrectly perceived distances occurred during retrospective
officers'

•

examination of their shootings where they learned of the actual distances between people and

33

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I

I

•

objects when the shooting occurred.
occurred. That is, only by viewing photographs of the shooting scene,
of the scene (including measurements), participating in a postinvestigators' sketches of
reviewing investigators’
shooting "walk-through"'2
“walk-through”” with investigators,
investigators, or doing something else after the shooting to
develop an understanding of the actual distances involved in their shooting, can officers come to

know the accuracy of their understanding of the distances. Because many of the officers in the
study did not later do anything that would inform them of the actual distances involved in their
shootings, it is possible that officers'
officers’ sense of distances is altered far more frequently than the
current research suggests.

Levels qf
Distortion
ofDistortion
With the caveat in mind that officers may not always be aware of the sensory distortions

I)

•

they experience, attention now turns from the matter of specific alterations to the issue of the
overall degree of distortions officers experience during shootings.
shootings. As was apparent in the above
discussion of how frequently officers experienced visual, auditory, and time distortions,

multiple sensory irregularities can occur in a single shooting.
shooting. In order to tap this aspect of
of the
perceptual distortion picture in a parsimonious fashion, three scales were crafted that combine
into single measures the legion of possible combinations of sensory alterations that may occur

“distortion scales"
scales” measures the overall
incidents. The first of these "distortion
over the course of shooting incidents.
degree to which each officer experienced sensory alterations prior to firing
firing in each of the 113

12

•

I::' During investigations of police shootings, some agencies recreate the incident by having the involved
officer(s) return to the scene after it has been processed to explain in detail what happened. Such a re-creation is
“walk-through” because the officer(s) go over the shooting step-by-step, walking the investigators
typically called a "walk-through"
through the incident.

34

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•
a

shootings. It simply sums the number of specific distortions that each officer reported
experiencing before firing
firing in each shooting (each reported distortion coulIlts
coupts for a single point).
Because officers could have reported experiencing each of the six specific distortions listed in the
instrument, plus a theoretically infinite number of "other"
“other” alterations, the possible scores for the

officers who reported no distortions prior to firing)
firing) to a high of 6
scale range from a low of 0 (for officers

+ N (for officers who reported all six listed distortions, plus some number of "others").
“others”). The
second distortion scale measures what officers experienced as they fired, and mirrors the first
exactly. The third scale measures the overall degree of distortions experienced at any time
during each shooting by simply summing the scores of the other two scales for each case. This
overall measure of total distortion thus ranges from 0 (for officers who experienced no

•

12 + N
distortions at any point) to 12
N.

INSERT TABLE 5 ABOUT HERE

5 , the observed upper limits of the scale scores --- five for prior, five
As indicated in Table 5,
firing, and 10
10 for total -- are quite modest in comparison to their infinite potential. This
for firing,
“other” distortions reported by any officer at any
stems from the fact that the greatest number of "other"
point in time was two. The fact that none of the officers scored a six on either the prior or during
scales indicates that none of them experienced all of the six measured permutations of visual,

auditory, and time distortions at either point in time. A closer look at Table 5 also indicates, on
auditory,
the other hand, that most officers did experience multiple distortions at each time point. Where

•

the time prior to firing is concerned, officers reported experiencing at least two distortions in

35

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I

•

e

70%
just 11%
70% of the shootings, three or more in 37%,
37%, four or more in 6%, and five distortions in just
%
of the cases. These figures translate to a mean of
of 2.02 distortions prior ty
t9 firing per
per shooting.
The
thatthey
The degree
degree to which officers experienced distortions was even greater during the time that
they
fired,
fired, as
as the average
average number of distortions rose to 2.45 for this time frame. Officers reported at
least two distortions while they were firing in more than three-fourths (76%) of
of the cases, three
sixth(l5%),
or more in more than half (57%),
(57%):four or five in more than a sixth
(1 5%), and, finally, five
distortions in four percent (4%)
(4%) of the cases.
Where
experienced more
Where the overall picture is concerned, Table 5 indicates that officers experienced
(89%). This is
than one
one distortion during
during the course
course of nine out of every ten shootings (89%).
understandable inasmuch as
as the "overall"
“overall” scale captures distortions that set in prior to the time
that officers shoot, and then continue
continue as
as they fire,
fire, in effect measuring a unitary phenomenon

I)

•

twice. What
What is interesting here, however, is that 82% of the time officers reported experiencing
at least three distortions, which means that the vast majority of the observed multiple distortions
in the overall scale are not due to the continuation of a single type of distortion across two time

In sum,
sum, the information
information on officers'
officers’ perceptions
perceptions indicates that in most shootings officers
points. In
experience multiple perceptual anomalies during the course of the event.

TABLE 6 ABOUT HERE
INSERT TABLE

Associations Among Distortions
Associations
Our understanding of the relationship between perceptual anomalies that officers
Our
experience during shootings
shootings is enhanced by the information offered in Table 6, which presents
experience

•

I2 specific distortions measured in the current study.
zero-order correlations among the 12
study. The first
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•e

point of interest is
is that the strongest positive correlations are between before and during
measures
measures of the same
same distortions,
distortions, as might be expected. The four largest coefficients are, in
(r =
= .61),
.61),
descending
descending order, the
the time one ane
ane time two measures of heightened visual detail (r

of
tunnel vision
vision (r
(r == .50),
.50), slow
slow motion (r
(r == .46),
.46), and fast motion (r
(r == .44).
.44). A second point of
interest is
is that the relationships between these distortions at time one and time two are not
particularly powerful, with just one zero-order correlation exceeding .50. A third point is that the
weak bivariate
bivariate associations
associations between both sorts of auditory distortions across the two time frames
(r
( r == .14
.I4 for
for increased sound and .24 for diminished sound) reflect the previously noted instability

of sound anomalies
of diminished sound
anomalies during shootings, particularly the remarkable onset of
when officers begin to fire
fire their weapons. These last two points together underscore the previous
discussion about the instability of given distortions across time that is masked in the raw
occurrence
occurrence figures
figures presented in Table 4.

•

The correlation matrix also shows that some different types of
of distortions are related to
one another,
another, albeit modestly. Among the more notable findings in this connection is that when

tojfiring,
firing, they are more likely to experience auditory
officers experience fast motion prior to
,

(r = .24)
.24) and while (r
(Y =
amplification, both prior to (r
amplification,
= .25) firing.
firing. Similarly, officers who
us they
theyJire
experienced fast motion as
fire are somewhat more likely to perceive an intensification of
of
(Y = .30)
.30) and while (r
(r =
sound, both prior to (r
sound,
= .28) firing.
firing. On a slightly different tack, when

officers experience auditory blunting prior to firing, they are more likely to experience slow

(r = .28) and while (r
(r =
= .24) firing. Other notable pairs that were likely to
motion, both prior to (r
following: tunnel vision and reduced sound while firing (r =
= .29),
occur in tandem include the following:

•

= .28), and fast motion prior to firing and
slow motion and auditory blunting prior to firing (r =

-

37

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•a

intensified sound while firing (r
of anomalies are
(r = .25).
.25). On the flip side of the coin, some sorts of
firing l for example, is
less
less likely to occur in the presence of others. Tunnel vision prior to firing,
= -.38).
somewhat less likely to occur in concert with increased visual acuity prior to firing (r =

Likewise,
= -.28),
-.28), slow and fast motion prior
Likewise, increased and reduced aural acuity prior to firing (r
(r=
to
= -.3
-.31),
to firing
firing (r
(r =
= -.33),
-.33), and slow and fast motion while firing (r
(r =
I), and tunnel vision and
increased visual acuity while firing
(r == -.27) are all a bit less likely to appear ttogether.
~ g e t h e 13r . ' ~
firing (r
Multiple dimensional scaling was employed to obtain additional insight into the
relationships
relationships among the perceptual distortions officers experienced. The Alscal procedure
employed,
employed, which allows one to assess the degree to which binary variables cluster together,
identified two
two distinct dimensions
dimensions within the distortions officers experienced and four distinct
clusters
of pairs of
of the
clusters of distortions on these two dimensions. Two of these clusters consisted of
•

same distortion at different times: visual detail and tunnel vision. These findings simply confirm
same
what
what the
the bivariate analysis
analysis disclosed regarding the increased likelihood that officers will
experience
experience these distortions when they fire
fire ifthey
if they experienced them prior to pulling the trigger.

The other two
two clusters
clusters were
were a bit more intriguing.
intriguing. The first
first consisted of slow motion
The
to firing,
firing, slow
slow motion while firing,
firing, and diminished sound prior to firing. This suggests that
prior to
there is
is a dimension
dimension of distortion
distortion that has to do with an attenuation of temporal and aural
there
perception. The
The other
other cluster included the four distortions of fast motion both prior to and while
perception.

15
The use
use
13 The

•

of Pearson's r to estimate associations between binary indicators produces statistics that
attenuate the
the underlying
underlying relationships
relationships between variables. Additional analysis was undertaken in order to ensure that
attenuate
to measure
measure the
the bi-variate relationships between distortions did not produce a
calculating zero-order
zero-order correlations
correlations to
calculating
inisleading picture
picture of
of which
which pairs of distortions are
are significantly related. In
I n this exercise, each of the three pairs of
misleading
non-significantly related
related variables
variables that
that were
were on
on the cusp of significance were cross-classified in order to estimate a
non-significantly
Phi statistic,
statistic, which
which produces significance
significance tests that are
are not based on attenuated relationships. This exercise found no
Phi
additional
significant
bi-variate
relationships
among
the distortions
additional significant

38

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iI

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firing and increased sound both prior to and while firing. This suggests that there is another
dimension of distortion that consists of a tendency for increased temporal and aural perception.
Together, these two clusters suggest that aural and temporal perception tend to operate in concert,
both increasing and decreasing together. Given the weak bivariate correlations between time and
sound distortions, however, it must be kept in mind that this tendency for co-occurrence is not a
strong one.
INSERT TABLE 7 ABOUT HERE
INSERT FIGURE 7 ABOUT HERE
Sources ofDistortions
of Distortions

Some of the literature
literature on perceptual distortions asserts that sensory alterations are the
Some
result of a rapid discharge of stress hormones (e.g.,
(e.g., adrenalin)
adrenalin) that occurs when the sympathetic

e

•

nervous system is activated by the brain's
brain’s perception of an immediate life threat from
from the
environment (e.g., Grossman and Siddle, 1999).
1999). This argument suggests
suggests that there should be
links between the perceptual distortions
distortions that officers experience
experience during shootings
shootings and both fear
for
for self and adrenalin rushes. In order to get some
some empirical purchase
purchase on this thesis, the
relationships between all three of the perceptual distortion scales and the measures of fear for self
and
and strength/adrenalin
strengtwadrenalin rush were
were examined. The first step
step in this process was to estimate
estimate the
zero-order correlations between the following
prior to shooting
following pairs of variables: fear for self
selfprior

shooting and all
all three scales,
scales, fear
fear
and all three distortion scales,
scales, strength/adrenalin
strengtwadrenalin rush prior to shooting
and
for
for self while shooting and the scale that measured distortions while firing,
firing, and strength/adrenalin
strengtwadrenalin

•

39
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rush
14
rush while
while shooting
shooting and
and the
the scale
scale that measured distortions while firing.
firing.I4
This
This exercise
exercise disclosed only thin support
support for
for the notion that distortions during officerinvolved
involved shootings
shootings emanate
emanate from
from physiological responses to threat. With alpha set at .05
.05 for the
one-tailed
one-tailed tests
tests suggested
suggested by the
the hypothesis, just five
five of the eight relationships examined were
statistically
statistically significant,
significant, and
and all
all of these were quite weak. The largest correlation observed was
between
prior to
prior distortions (r
followed, in
between fear
fear for
for self
selfprior
to shooting and
andprior
(r =.22). This was followed,
descending
totaZ distortion (r
(r =.20),
=.20), strength/adrenalin
strengtwadrenalin rush while firing
descending order,
order, by prior fear
fear and total
and
and distortions
distortions during
during (r
(r=
=..19),
19), strength/adrenalin
strengtwadrenalin rush prior to firing and prior distortions ((rr
=.16),
=.16), and
and fear
fear for
for self during and distortions during (r
(r =.16).15
=.16).15
The
The next step
step taken in the
the assessing the relationships between fear, adrenalin rushes, and
perceptual distortion
of
examine whether experiencing both fear for self and a rush of
distortion was to examine

0

•

strengtwadrenalin in tandem was
was more strongly associated with distortions than were either of
strength/adrenalin
of
the phenomenon by themselves.
themselves. This
This was accomplished by creating two additive scales that
the
the degree
degree fear/adrenalin
fearladrenalin officers experienced prior to and while firing (for both scales 0 =
tapped the
fear nor adrenalin
adrenalin rush, 1 == either fear or adrenaIin
adrenalin rush, and 2 == both fear and adrenalin
neither fear
rush), and
and regressing
regressing the appropriate measures of distortion on these scales. This exercise
rush),
disclosed that the combined fear/adrenaIin
feadadrenalin measures were more consistently correlated with
disclosed
distortion than were the separate
separate measures, but that the associations were only marginally
distortion

I4Neither the
the prior nor the total
rota1 distortion scales were regressed on the measures of
14Neither
of what officers
experienced while shooting because the temporal sequencing would not be proper. Fear and strength/adrenal
strength/adrenal in
rushes experienced while shooting
shooring can not affect officers
officers perceptions before they tire;
rushes
fire; hence, the exclusion of
of the
while shooting
shooting thoughts/feelings and prior distortions associations. Similarly, the relationships
while
relationships between fear and
while firing
firing and overall distortion were not estimated because the total distortion scale includes
strength/adrenalin while
strength/adrenalin
tofiring
it.
firing in it.
perceptions prior to

•

l5
15

same five
five pairs of variables as being significantly associated.
T-tests identify the same
associated.

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•e

stronger than the significant associations observed in the first step of
of the analysis. All four of
of the
associations
plu~ fear/adrenalin while
i.e., fear/adrenalin
feadadrenalin prior with all three scales, plug
associations examined -- i.e.,
firing
fear/adrenal in prior and
firing with distortions while firing -- were statistically significant, with feadadrenalin
distortion
fear/adrenalin prior and
distortion prior having the largest correlation (r
( r =.28),
=.28), followed by feadadrenalin
overall
(r =.26),
=.26), fear/adrenalin
feadadrenalin while firing and distortion while firing ((rr =.23),
overall distortion firing
firing (r
and
=.18).
and fear/adrenalin
feadadrenalin prior and distortion while firing (r
( r =.
18).

In sum,
sum, empirical consideration of the matter offers tepid support for the notion that the
perceptual distortions that officers experience during shootings emanate from physiological
responses to perceived threat. Looking at feeling of fear and strength/adrenalin
strengtwadrenalin rushes separately
disclosed
disclosed that three of eight associations
associations were not significant and that the five significant
associations were quite
quite weak.
weak. When the two predictors were examined in tandem, the strength
•

of

the associations
associations between officers'
officers’ relevant thoughts/feelings
thoughtdfeelings and perceptual distortions were still
the
16
quite
quite modest.
modest.I6

Recall
Recall of
of Shots
Shots Fired

The examination of officers'
officers’ responses during shootings closes with ·consideration
consideration of
The
of a
on the
the perceptual
perceptual distortion theme. The literature includes the assertion variation on
- but no
supporting data
data -- that police
police officers
officers often are
are not aware of how many rounds they fire during
supporting
shootings (e.g.,
(e.g., Artwhol
Artwhol and
and Christensen,
Christensen, 1997).
1997). The current data offers an opportunity to obtain
shootings

•

I6It
should be noted. however,
however, that the binary nature of the fear and adrenaline measures suggests that bi16
1t should
variate
relationships
between
distortions
and fear
fear and adrenaline may be stronger than what was observed in the
variate relationships between
present
analysis.
Because
the
dichotomies
used
truncate the variation in fear and adrenaline, it is possible that more
present analysis. Because the dichotomies
sensitive
indicators
that
more
precisely
measured
these phenomenon would have produced stronger associations.
associations.
sensitive indicators that more
in
mind
when
making
judgements
about
the
degree
of
support
that
the
analyses
presented in
Readers
should
keep
this
Readers should keep this in III ind
making
this report
report lend
lend to
to the
the fear/adrenaline-distortion
fear/adrenaline-distortionhypothesis.
this

41
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I

i

•

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some
some empirical
empirical purchase
purchase on this matter because it contains information on both the
the number of
shots
shots officers
officers actually fired
fired (as
(as determined by the
the post-shooting investigat~on)
investigation) and the
the number of
rounds they had believed they had fired
fired at the time of the shooting. The
The instrument included an

officers to report the total
total number of shots
shots they fired
fired during
during each shooting.
shooting. The
The
item that asked officers
also asked during
during the directed interviews
interviews how many rounds they had believed they
officers were also
fired,
fired, and this information was added to the data set.
set.

actually fired in 112
112 of the 113
1 13
Officers knew precisely the number of rounds they actually
case, the officer could not remember whether he actually fired
fired seven or
shootings (in the other case,
rounds). The
The distribution of shots
shots actually fired
fired was highly skewed with aa mode of one (N
(N
eight rounds).
= 33),
33), a mean of 4.5
=

single uncertain case as
as 7.5
7.5 rounds), and a high of 41.
41.
(counting the single

10 rounds in 105
105 (93%) of the cases. Among the remaining eight,
eight,
Officers fired fewer than 10
•

14 rounds in one case, 15
15 rounds in one case,
case, 16
16 rounds in
officers fired 13
13 rounds in one case, 14
case, 18
18 rounds in one case,
case, 28 rounds in two cases, and,
and, finally,
finally, 41
41 rounds in one case.
case.”17
one case,

beZieved they had
officers provided on the number of rounds they believed
The information the officers
as precise. Officers reported that they believed they had fired a specific
specific number of
fired was not as
1 13 cases.
cases. In 10
10 others,
others, officers reported that they had believed that the
shots in 90 of the 113
fell within a specific range (e.g., "I
“I thought I fired 8 to 10
10
number of rounds they had fired fell
rounds.”). Among the remaining 13
13 cases were two in which the officers had no firm
firm numbers in
rounds.").
mind, but believed that they had fired more than the actual number they discharged; two in which

discharged, but believed that they
the officers did not have any firm idea of how many rounds the discharged,

•

l 7 The three cases in which officers fired more than 20 rounds transpired during large-scale SWAT
SWAT
17
gunmen..
operations that involved protracted gun battles with barricaded gunmen

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•

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had
had firedfewer than the
the actual
actual count;
count; and nine in which the officers had no idea whatsoever
about
about how
how many rounds they fired.
fired. The
The figures
figures for number of rounds actually fired and the
number believed to
to have been fired
fired are displayed in Table 8, with the case where an officer
believed that he
he had fired either seven or eight rounds counted as eight.
INSERT
INSERT TABLE 8 ABOUT HERE
A
A case-by-case
case-by-case comparison of the number of rounds thought to have been fired and
of shots was
actually
actually fired
fired in each
each of the 90
90 cases where officers recalled firing a specific number of
conducted in
in order to
to round out the assessment of the degree of agreement between actual counts
officers'
and
and officers'
officers’ recollections of how many shots
shots they fired.
fired. This exercise disclosed that officers’
recollections turned out to be incorrect in 14
14 cases. Overall, then, officers could not accurately
recall the exact
exact number of rounds they fired in 37 (33%)
(33%) of the shootings (i.e., the 14 in which

•

officers'
officers‘ recollections of specific numbers were incorrect, plus the 10
10 in which officers

13 in which they had no firm numbers in mind).
guesstimated a range, plus the 13
of the
A closer look inside the data provides some additional highlights about the nature of

discrepancies between officers'
officers’ actions in pulling the trigger and their impressions of
of this
discrepancies

14 cases where the officers'
officers’ belief
behavior. Among the 14
behavior.
belief that they had fired some specific
shots was mistaken, the figure
figure they had in mind was lower than the actual count in 12
number of shots
cases and higher in the other 2 cases.
cases. Among the ten cases where officers reported a specific
cases
range in which they believed the actual number of shots fired fell,
fell, the true figure was within the
range in three cases and higher in the other seven. Adding the two figures for low-count cases

(i.e., 12
12 and 7)
7 )to the two cases where the only notion officers’
officers' had about the number of
of rounds
(i.e.,

•

of 21
they fired was that they believed they had fired fewer than they actually did, yields a total of
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•
e

cases in which the officer's
officer’s recollection ofthe
of the number of shots they fired was lower than the
actual number. Adding the two high-count figures
figures (i.e.,
(Le., two among the cases where officers'
officers’

specific numbers and two among the cases where officers recalled a range) yields a total
recalled specific
fired was higher than the true number.
of four cases in which the number officers believed they fired
summarize to this point, among the 37 cases in which officers'
officers’ could not accurately recall the
To summarize

2 1, over-counted in 4, had no idea how
number of rounds they fired, officers under-counted in 21,
many rounds they fired in 9, and had in mind a range that included the actual number in 3.
3.
Another point of information that emerges from a closer look at the data is that the

officers’ recall tends to decrease as the number of shots they fire increases. None of
accuracy of officers'
13 or more shots had an accurate understanding of the number; five
the eight officers who fired 13
had no idea how many rounds they fired (including the three who fired 28 or more) and the other
•

17 shootings
shootings in which officers fired six to
three thought they had fired fewer shots. Among the 17
nine rounds, the officers had a specific recall that was accurate in just five
five cases. (They

undercounted the number in seven, over counted in two,
two. recalled a range within which the actual
one). In the 88 cases where officers fired five or fewer
number fell in two, and had no clue in one).
rounds, the officers were correct in their belief
belief about the number of rounds they fired in 71
7 1 cases.

(Officers recalled a number that was lower than the actual count in 11
11 cases, recalled a higher
(Officers
number in 2, had no clue in 3, and recalled a range into which the actual number fired fell in the

81%
remaining case).
case). Thus does the recall accuracy rate drop from 81
% when officers fire five or
fire 13
13 or more.
fewer rounds, to 29% when they fire six to nine, to 0% when they fire
figures on officers perceptions of
Perhaps the most interesting single data point from the figures

•

the number of rounds fired is that in one case the involved officer was not aware that he had fired

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•

any rounds at all. In this case, the officer in question was shot at close range by a suspect who
then immediately fled the location. The suspect was captured nearby after losing a gun battle
officer's partner. It was discovered during the post-shooting investigation that
with the injured officer's

the
first officer had fired one round that struck the suspect during the initial confrontation in which
himself had been shot. The first officer had no recollection that he had fired his gun.''
gun. 18
he himself
Information gleaned from the directed interviews regarding the other 112
112 shootings
disclosed a variation on the theme of not recalling firing
firing one's weapon. In several of the cases in
which officers' perceptions of the number of rounds they fired jibes with the number they
actually shot, the officers stated that they were not aware of the fact that they were firing as they

trigger. In such cases, the officers
officers developed their understanding of the number
were pulling the trigger.

e

•

fired at some point after they ceased firing
firing shots,
shots. but before the incident had
of rounds they fired
ended. In one such instance,
instance, the only reason the officer knew that he had fired four
four rounds is that
ended.
shotgun, which he emptied at the suspect before
he knew that he carried four rounds in his shotgun,
drawing
drawing his sidearm (which he did not fire).
fire). He did not recall firing
firing four
four rounds;
rounds; he just deduced

from his empty shotgun that he had done
done so.
so. In another case,
case, an officer knew that he had fired
fired
from
semi-automatic handgun only because when he looked down the frame
frame to obtain a sight
his semi-automatic
suspect who was wrestling with his partner, he saw that the hammer was
picture on an armed suspect
cocked back,
back. which could only have happened if he had already fired,
fired, because the gun he was

fires the
the first
first round double-action and subsequent
subsequent rounds single-action.
single-action. At that point,
carrying fires

•
0

I s Another interesting
interesting point from
from this incident concerns
concerns the
the officer who
who captured the gunman.
gunman. He
He received
18
the shootout that brought the suspect down,
down, but was
was not aware
aware that he
he had been
been shot
shot until
until
aa gunshot wound during the
well after the
was over.
the incident was

45
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/

II

•

e

and before the situation
situation was resolved, the officer realized that he had fired a single round as he
officer's partner rolled the suspect
was
was bringing the gun up from
from his holster. It was only after the officer’s
onto
onto his
his back that the officer knew that his round had found its mark.
Because officers
officers such as the two mentioned immediately above developed the correct
understanding of the number of rounds they fired only because of some external cue, it is evident
that the rate at which officers have independent cognition of
of the number of
of rounds they fire
during
during shootings
shootings is
is somewhat lower than the two-thirds figure reported above. Because the
perception figures
of their
figures in some cases are measuring officers'
officers’ retrospective understandings of
actions
actions (albeit very soon
soon after the action in question), it must be understood that the hard data in
Table 8 present a conservative picture of the scope of the deviation between officers’
officers' perceptions
of and
and the reality of how many rounds they fired.
fired.

•

Summary of Findings Regarding Reactions During Shootings

The following
following points summarize
summarize what the present data disclose about officers’
The
officers' reactions
during shootings:
shootings: 1)
1 ) Officers experienced a wide variety of specific thoughts and feelings during
during
the encounters in which they shot others, 2) The thoughts and feelings that officers experienced
often shifted during
during the course of their shootings,
shootings, 3) a large majority of officers experienced
some sense
sense of fear
fear for
for self,
self, others, or both at some point during their shootings, 4) the vast
some
officers experience at least two types of perceptual distortions during
majority of the time, officers
shooting incidents,
incidents. 5)
5 ) when comparisons were possible, the experiences of
shooting
of the officers in the
fell within the bounds of what previous research has reported on
current study generally fell

6) officers'
officers’ perceptions can change substantially over the course of
perceptual distortions,
distortions, 6)
of

•

shooting incidents,
incidents, 7) some specific distortions are more likely to occur in tandem with others,
shooting
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•

while some are less likely, 8) the degree of
of distortion that officers experience is mildly
mildly related
related to
to
feeling of fear and adrenalin rushes, and 9) there are substantial and systematic deviations
between officers'
of rounds they fired and the number
number of
of rounds
officers’ understandings of the number of
they actually fired.

RESPONSES
RESPONSES AFTER SHOOTINGS
SHOOTINGS
The instrument included several items that queried officers about the thoughts, emotions,
and physical responses they experienced during four distinct time periods following their
shootings: (1) within the first 24 hours after the shooting, (2) from the second to the seventh day,
of the third month, and
(3)
(3) from the beginning of the second week after the shooting to the end of
(4)
(4) after three months had passed. For simplicity's
simplicity’s sake, these time frames will henceforth be
referred to
to as
as the first day,
day, the first week,
week. the first three months, and post-three months (and like
•

verbiage),
verbiage), respectively. For each of these four time periods, officers were asked to report
whether they experienced each of the following
following psychological or emotional phenomena:

•

•a

elation

•a

sadness
sadness

•a

numbness
numbness

•a

thoughts about the shooting
recurrent thoughts

•e

fear for
for their physical safety
safety
fear

•

fear of legal
legal and/or administrative problems
fear

•e

anxiety
anxiety

•a

nightmares
nightmares

•a

other thoughts/feelings
thoughts/feelings
other

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•0

And each of the following physical responses:

•a

nausea

•a

loss of appetite

•a

headaches
headaches

•a

fatigue
fatigue

a

•

crymg
cryw

•a

fallinghtaying asleep
asleep
trouble falling/staying

•a

symptoms
other physical symptoms

/

of 54 statements ~
Officers
Officers were also
also queried about whether they felt that each of a set of
lifted
lifted almost verbatim from
from Campbell's (1992)
( 1 992) instrument -- dealing with post-shooting opinions
and experiences
experiences that could have occurred at any time after their shooting applied to them.
•

of their
Presentation of what the study disclosed about officers' experiences in the wake of

shootings will focus
focus on the information
information gleaned from
from the time-specific items and use the
shootings

54 statements
statements to flesh-out specific points. Before moving forward with
information from
from these 54
information
this material,
material, however,
however, aa brief discussion of the
the timing of the interviews vis-a-vis the shootings is
this
in order.
order.
in
Seven of the
the 113
1 13 shootings took place less that three months before the involved officers
Seven
12 days
days prior, one occurred 19
19 days prior, and the other five
sat for
for their
their interviews:
interviews: one
one occurred 12
sat

18 days prior. One other
occurred between
between two
two months
months and three days
days and two months and 18
occurred
shooting occurred three and one-half months before the involved officer was interviewed. These
shooting
eight cases
cases present an
an obvious
obvious problem in a research project that sought to develop information
eight

•

48
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•
e

about what officers experienced
experienced since the three month mark following their shootings.
shootings.’’19 It was

resolved through the following
following procedures:
First, the officers involved in the two shooting that had occurred less than 20 days prior to
the date of interview were instructed to ignore 'all
a11 items that dealt with post-shooting responses
after the first week. Second,
Second, the officers involved in the other six shootings
shootings in question were
instructed to ignore the items dealing with responses after three months had passed. Third, based
on the assumption that officers who had not experienced a given phenomenon within the first

following a shooting
shooting were not likely to experience
experience an onset of that response
two-plus months following
within the next several days, the officers involved in the five shootings
shootings that occurred between

two and three months prior to sitting for interviews were instructed to respond to the items that
dealt with post-shooting responses between eight days and three months. Finally, the various the
•

“not applicable"
applicable” in the data set.
items that these officers were instructed to ignore were entered as "not
The research also included one case that presented a different sort of data collection

problem. In this case, the subject officer suffered a life-threatening gunshot wound during the
shooting in question (a firefight with an armed robber), flat-lined three times before medical
personnel finally stabilized her, and was unconscious for most of the first 48 hours following
following the
shooting. Consequently,
Consequently, the officer was instructed to ignore all items regarding responses during
shooting.
the initial 24-hour time frame.
frame. These items were then coded as "not
“not applicable"
applicable” in the data set
post-shooting responses began with the one week time
for the case in question and entry of post-shooting
frame.

•

”) Two of the remaining 105
105 shootings occurred seven months prior to interview and the remaining 103
103
19
happened at least one year prior. The longest amount oftime
of time between shooting and interview was 25 years. Six of
the ‘80s.
1990s.
the shootings occurred in the 1970s, 25 in the'
80s. and the remaining 82 in the 19905.

49

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•
a

1 12 cases that include
In the end, the above procedures yielded a data set with 112

following shootings,20
shootings,*' 113
1 13 cases
information on officers' responses within the first 24 hours following
111 cases with information regarding the
during the first week, 111
with information on responses during

105 that contain information about officers' responses after three months
months, and 105
first three months,
had passed.
With this background information in hand, attention now turns to what analysis of the

experiences, starting with their
data disclosed about the subject officers' post-shooting experiences,
responses.
psychological and emotional responses.
Psychological/Emotional Responses
The first step taken to analyze officers' psychological and emotional responses was to

determine the number of cases in which officers experienced each type at any
anypoinf
following
determine
point following

0

•

21 This process
1 13 shootings were examined.
examined.2'
their use of deadly force. For this exercise, all 113
disclosed that recurrent thoughts were by far the single thought/emotion most often experienced.
Officers reported this response at some point following 96 of the shootings. The directed

inter\ iews disclosed that few
few of the officers viewed having recurring thoughts as
as a negative
interviews
experience (see discussion of sadness below). Indeed,
Indeed, most officers described the thoughts they
experience
had in either positive or neutral terms (see discussion of elation below), although many reported
that they had second-guessed themselves, wondering if they had taken appropriate actions

'"

•

~o The officer who was told to ignore the items for the first 24 hours reported that she had suffered some
decrease in the volume of oxygenated blood that reached her brain during the first several
loss of memory due to a decrease
communicating through
minutes after being shot. After regaining consciousness, she was told that she had been communicating
communication) with others during
during the first two days post-shooting.
physical gestures (intubation precluded verbal communication)
has no
no recollection of any such discussions, nor of anything else during this 48-hour time frame.
She has
' I See
See Table 9 for the same information on the 104
104 shootings for which full
full data is
is available.
"'

50

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
a

immediately prior to and during the moments they shot.
shot.”22 One theme that several officers
touched on in this connection was wondering if they could have done anything to avoid pulling
the trigger, contemplating whether different actions might have led to some resolution short of

force. Another related theme for some officers was how well they performed in terms of
deadly force.
appropriateness of the number of rounds
firing their guns; some officers reported questioning the appropriateness
they fired, while others reported trying to figure out why the bullets they fired did not always
strike precisely where they had aimed (e.g., why rounds aimed at the suspect's
suspect’s chest struck the
suspect's
suspect’s arm).
arm).
Anxiety
Officers reported having a sense
sense of anxiety at some point following
following 48 of the shootings.
shootings.
Some of the officers
officers who had this response reported that they were anxious
anxious about the prospect of
•

shootings. One officer who was involved in a shoot-out fairly
fairly soon after
getting into additional shootings.
graduating from
from the police academy,
academy, for example,
example, figured
figured that having a shooting early in his
career meant that he might well be destined to be involved in others and was therefore anxious
23
about the prospect of future
Other officers who experienced anxiety linked the
future shootings.
shootings.23

feeling to concerns about the prospect of sharing
sharing what happened with others,
others, press coverage,
coverage,
feeling
shooting. The officers from
from this second group
group typically fell
fell into
and/or investigations into the shooting.
shooting before and therefore
therefore were anxious
anxious
categories: 1) those who had not been in a shooting
one of two categories:
the unknown,
unknown, or 2)
2) those who had been in prior shootings
shootings and were not looking forward to
about the

77

“I reviewed the incident again and again, wondering if
n-- Officers responded affirmatively to the statement, "I
I did the right thing"
thing” in 31%
3 1% of the cases.
cases.

•

’’ The officer's
officer’s intuition was correct.
correct. He was involved in a second shooting
shooting six
six months after the first.
first.

23

51
51

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

telling others about another the incident,
incident, going through another investigation, and so on.

Concerns A
bout Legal and Administrative
Concerns
About
Administrative Repercussions
Concerns about the post-shooting investigation were also salient for officers who reported
fear that the shooting might create administrative and/or legal problems for them. Officers

fears in 40 of the cases, worrying that they might be punished by their agency, sued
reported such fears
in civil court, and/or charged with a crime for shooting the people they shot.
shot. For some officers,
officers,
such fears
fears emanated from the shooting itself. Among the officers whose fears
fears were rooted in
what transpired during the shooting were two who shot unarmed citizens whom the officers

believed were about to shoot them. Understandably, both officers were quite worried about how
their agency and the legal system would respond after it was determined that the suspects were in

fears of legal and/or administrative entanglement came from
fact unarmed. For other officers, fears
•

shooting. In one such case, an officer who was initially confident
things that occurred after the shooting.
that he had acted properly became quite concerned about legal and administrative matters during
the on-scene portion of the investigation into the incident. As he waited for the investigation to
commence, his attorney (who came to the scene as part of the agency's standard post-shooting
protocol) got into a heated argument with the homicide division supervisor who was in charge of
the investigation. When the officer -- who was some distance away and thus could not hear what

quarrel, he figured that there must be some big problem with the
was being said -- saw the quarrel,
shooting; why else would the two go toe-to-toe at the scene of an officer-involved shooting? As
shooting;
it turned out, the row between the detective-lieutenant and the attorney was over some other

question. When the officer's attorney
matter entirely, and had nothing to do with the shooting in question.

•

told him this, it calmed his fears,
fears. but made him quite angry with both his attorney and the
52

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/I

•
a

lieutenant for airing their differences
differences in a fashion that had caused him great consternation.

Elation
Officers experienced a sense of elation at some point following 33 of the shootings. The
Officers
directed interviews identified three types of elation among the officers who reported experiencing

of joy about having survived a life-threatening
it. The first sort that officers spoke of was a sense ofjoy
situation. The officers who experienced this form of elation reported a profound satisfaction
about being alive following an event that could have left them dead. The second type of elation
reported is a form of exhilaration (most often in the first 24 hours) that appears to be a type of
residual emotion from the sheer excitement of the situation where they fired. As one officer put

it, he was "hyped-up"
“hyped-up’’ for a while after his shooting. The third type of elation officers described --

•
0

which takes two distinct forms -- is deep satisfaction about doing their job properly.
The first form of deep satisfaction was felt by officers who reported that they had
wondered how they would perform if they were ever involved in what they described as the
utmost challenge in a law enforcement career: an encounter where deadly force is necessary.
These officers reported feeling elated that they had passed this ultimate test. The second form of

job-related elation is social in nature, a deep satisfaction from proving to one's
one’s peers that one is
of law enforcement tasks. Most of the officers
competent to handle themselves in the most trying ofJaw
who reported this sort of elation reported that they had no doubts that they would perform well if
situation. but nonetheless felt that they had to prove their mettle to
confronted with a shooting situation,

peer^.'^24 The rest of the officers who experienced this social form of elation felt a doubled
their peers.

•

24 Several male SWAT officers reported this sort of elation in terms of having proven their worth to their
female patrol officer reported that her sense ofjob-related
ofjob-related elation stemmed from the sense that she
teammates. One female
had proven to her male colleagues that she could handle herself
herself properly in life-threatening situations.

53

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•
0

sense of accomplishment for having shown their competency to both themselves and their peers.

from
In sum, none of the various sorts of elation that officers reported involved pleasure taken from
I

hurting or killing the person they shot,
shot. but rather described feelings of excitement about the
event, joy about being alive, or accomplishment about doing a tough job properly.
Sadness

following 29 of the shootings. It was often
Officers reported having a sense of sadness following
over the fate of the person they shot, though not always
always in relation to their injury per se. Several
of the citizens shot by officers were, in the minds of the officers, tragic figures whose lives came

to tragic ends. Some of the citizens. for example,
example, were suicidal and chose to end (or try to end)
gunfire,‘j while others were lost souls whose long-standing
their lives in a hail of police gunfire,25
substance abuse had in some fashion led them to the deadly confrontation with authorities. The
•

emotions in terms
officers who expressed sadness after shooting such citizens often framed their emotions
of feeling bad that a fellow
fellow human could devolve to such a state that they ended up on the wrong
26
Other officers expressed sadness for the members of the family
end of police guns.
guns.26
family of the

person they shot, feeling sorry for them to have lost a loved one. Still other officers reported that
they felt bad that they had been involved in a situation that scared their loved ones, causing their

parents, spouses, or other family members to worry about their safety (in some cases because
they had been injured). Finally,
Finally. some officers reported feeling sad for innocent people who were

25
25

One officer who wounded an apparently suicidal individual reported a sense of sorrow for the citizen he
citizen’s family maltreated their obviously disturbed relative by, among other things, refusing to
shot because the citizen's
permit him to accept a plea bargain that would have provided the mental health treatment he so clearly needed
needed. For
(commoiiI\
background information on the phenomenon of suicidal individuals seeking death via police gunfire (commonly
a]., (1998).
(1998).
“suicide-by-cop” in law enforcement circles), see, for example. Hutson et a\.,
called "suicide-by-cop"

•

26
26

10 cases officers responded affirmatively to the statement ..-‘I
shot.”
In IO
( felt sorry for the subject who was shot."

54

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

II

•

e

injured or killed by the citizen they shot in the moments before they took the citizen under fire
fire..

Numbness
Officers reported a sense
sense of numbness at some point after 23
23 of the shootings. They often
described this numbness in terms of being so
so overwhelmed by the shooting and its aftermath that
they were mentally, emotionally,
emotionally, and/or physically spent.
spent. When asked to describe the numbness
he was feeling,
feeling, one officer stated that he felt as if "he
“he had used up all of his brain cells"
cells” dealing
with all that had happened during the shooting,
shooting, the events it had set in motion (e.g., the
investigation), and the other post-shooting reactions he was experiencing.
experiencing.

Nightmares
Officers
Officers reported having nightmares after 20 of the shootings.
shootings. In most cases these
nightmares had themes that revolved around police shootings, while in some there was no

a

•

event. Shooting-related nightmares took two forms.
forms. The first sort in some
apparent link to the event.
fashion replayed the shooting incident (sometimes with different circumstances, characters,
and/or outcomes). In one case, for example, an officer had repeated dreams of the thief she shot
charging at her. The second sort of shooting-related nightmare officers reported consisted of

dreams where the officer was involved in a different deadly force
force encounter.
encounter. In this type of
dreams
typically unable to defeat their opponent, either because their gun would
wouId
nightmare, officers were typically
effect. Finally, in dreams with
not properly function or because the bullets that did strike had no effect.
no clear linkage to the shooting,
shooting, officers often had visions of monsters and similar entities.
entities.”27

27
27

•

11 cases officers
officers agreed with the statement that after the shooting, "I
“I had bad dreams
dreams about things not
In 11
shooting.” In some of these cases the officers
officers did not report having nightmares among the specific
related to the shooting."
post-shooting reactions they experienced. When quizzed about this apparent discrepancy during the directed
interviews, the officers in question indicated that they had similar dreams prior to the shooting and therefore did not
attribute those they experienced afterwards to having been involved in a shooting.

55

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ii

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for Safety
Fear jor
Officers felt some fear for their safety following 20 of the shootings. For most of the
officers, the fear took the form of a realization that they could have been injured or killed during
the incident where they fired. For other officers it was a fear of becoming involved in another
incident, one which might not end as favorably for them as the shooting they survived. The fears
fears

that officers expressed typically had less to do with being afraid of injury and death and more to
do with worry about what their loved ones would do if something bad happened to them.

Perhaps the most sobering example of such fear arose in an officer when the person he shot (who
had been holding a child hostage) was released from custody and began to stalk and threaten the

family. The officer became quite fearful
fearful that if he were incapacitated or killed
officer and his family.

0

•

that his family would be at the mercy of a dangerous lunatic.
Guilt
Officers experienced some sense of guilt for a variety of things in 14
14 of the cases. For

example, one officer who shot an individual armed with a toy gun felt guilty over having hurt
someone who posed no actual threat to him. In a related vein, some officers expressed guilt over

having harmed or killed the person they shot, even though the individual had engaged in actual
action. In one case such a sense of guilt carne
came when the involved officer's
officer’s father
life-threatening action.
dad’s
shooting. The officer reported that for a while he felt that his dad's
passed away soon after the shooting.
shot. Other
death was a form of punishment for him having taken the life of the gunman he shot.
officers experienced guilt for not having done their job as they perceived they should have during

•

the shooting.
shooting. One officer
o f h e r who reported this sort of guilt felt badly that he was not able to prevent
56

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

the escape of any of the four bank robbers with whom he engaged in a wild shootout while
28
working an off-duty job by himself.
himself.**

I

Miscellaneous Psychological/Emotional
Psychological/Emotional Reactions
Miscelluneous
In addition to the several specific psychological/emotional
psychological/emotional responses
responses that officers
reported experiencing, they indicated that they had some "other"
“other” thought or feeling in 48 cases.
miscellaneous reactions was anger, which officers
The most commonly expressed of these miscellaneous

15 cases. The object of the anger was often the person they shot.
shot. In some such cases
reported in 15
officers were angry at their opponent for trying to kill them, while in others they were upset at

their target for forcing them to shoot. One officer, for example,
example, was angry at the suicidal citizen
he shot for involving him in a demented death drama. Other officers were upset with fellow
fellow
officers over actions the later took during shooting incidents. One such officer -- who shot a
•

@

dozens of other officers had failed to do so during a tense stand-off
stand-off -rifle-toting gunman after dozens
expressed anger at the officers who did nothing because he felt that at least one of them should
have shot the gunman long before the subject officer arrived on the scene. Still other officers
were upset with the detectives and other law enforcement officials (e.g., district attorney

personnel) over some aspect of the fashion
fashion which they investigated and reviewed the shooting.
Finally, some officers expressed anger at the news media for what they viewed as biased
shooting that put them in a bad light. Some of the officers who received "bad
“bad
coverage of the shooting
press”
shootings singled-out for special reprobation specific reporters who they felt
press" about their shootings
had been especially biased, offering withering, bitingly negative, comments about them during

•a

28 The officer did strike one of the robbers with several of the rounds he fired. The suspect escaped only
because the body armor he was wearing prevented incapacitating injuries, allowing him to scramble into the get19.
away car. This is the same case first mentioned on page 19.
27
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(

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the directed interviews.
Half a dozen officers reported a sense of pride or satisfaction over1the
overitheactions they took
during the shooting. This response is, obviously, closely related to the satisfaction-based elation
discussed above.
above. Information collected during the directed interviews suggests
suggests that the
difference between the two types of responses is one of the nature of satisfaction or pride felt.
felt.

“elation” response category
The officers who felt satisfaction or pride and who checked the "elation"
seemed to have had a more visceral response compared with their peers who chose to check the

“other” category to register their more cerebral sense of accomplishment. Whatever the case
"other"
“other” category indicates that more officers experience some
might be, the information from the "other"
officers’ responses to the
measure of satisfaction from their actions than was indicated by officers'
"elation"
“elation” item.

a

•

“other” thoughts or feelings
feelings that officers reported were a few
Counted among the "other"
responses that could be viewed as the flip side of the job satisfaction coin. One officer, for
example, reported a sense of disappointment that the shots she fired did not strike her opponent
where she had aimed. while another said he was embarrassed about his inability to appropriately

shot: an emotionally disturbed individual armed
assess the actual threat posed by the person he shot:
from other
with a toy gun. Other responses officers reported included the desire to withdraw from
people, the desire to avoid confrontations, an increase in the frequency of benign dreams, secondfocusing on tasks such as reading,
guessing the decision to make police work a career, difficulty focusing
feel bad about
and wondering if there was something wrong with them because they did not feel

•

58
58

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(I

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e

killing another human.
human.”29
Finally, one "other"
“other” reaction that was reported in 3 cases deserves
deserves special attention:
depression. In two of the cases the depression struck well after the one week mark, but before
three months had passed, and lingered well into the post three month period. In the third case,
the depression struck well after the three month mark. During the directed interviews. the
officers involved in all three shootings
shootings reported that their symptoms included a reduced
enthusiasm for life. One officer reported that this component of the depression
depression got so severe that
he contemplated
contemplated suicide. Shortly after hitting this low point, the officer sought counseling from a

mental health professional who was able to help him regain his desire to live.
Table 9 below summarizes
summarizes the psychological and emotional responses that officers
shootings by providing frequency distributions for
experienced at any point in the aftermath of shootings
•

@

1 13 cases and for the 104 cases with missing data for one or
each specific response among all 113
frame. The table clearly shows that the proportion of cases in which officers
more time frame.
samples, with
experienced a given response changes only negligibly between the full and reduced samples,

most responses occurring in the same proportion in both samples and the largest changes a mere
three percent, which occurred with just two variables.

•

reported no ill
29 Only one officer reported this response on the instrument. Several other officers who reported
of their
the'ir interviews.
effects from their shootings, however, raised this issue in the form of a question at or near the end of
These officers (often those who reported a sense of satisfaction after the event) asked the interviewer if he believed
that there was something wrong with them because they had not suffered any notable negative repercussions from
having shot someone. The interviewer asked them why they thought this might be the case. Most ooff them stated that
they had received training.
training, or through some other means had heard, that officers invariably have a hard time in the
aftermath of
of a shooting.
shooting, that it was normal to have a negative response, and that ipsofucto
ipso facto they must not be nonnal.
questionnaire, reasoning that they
The rest indicated that they derived this impression from having filled-out the questionnaire.
if the federal government was sponsoring research that
were supposed to have had some negative repercussions if
of the officers in the later category actually apologized
obviously focused on negative responses to shootings. Some of
of the officers who expressed concern about
interviewer for having so few negative responses to report. All of
to the interviewer
their positive or neutral responses were relieved when the interviewer opined that there was absolutely nothing
jeopardy.
wrong with such reactions to shooting someone whose actions had placed innocents in jeopardy.

59

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

INSERT TABLE 9 ABOUT HERE
I

Physical Responses
With a sketch of officers'
officers’ post-shooting thoughts and feelings in hand, attention now
turns to what the current data discloses about their physical responses. As was the case regarding

psychological and emotional responses,
responses, presentation of this information begins with a discussion
of how frequently
frequently officers experienced each sort considered at any point following the shootings.
shootings.
The most commonly reported physical response was trouble sleeping, which officers experienced
following 55
55 of the shootings.
shootings.”3D Logically enough, the next most frequently
frequently experienced
response was fatigue, with officers reporting being tired in 52 cases. Officers reported that they
cried at some point following 27 of the shootings, experienced a noticeable decline in their desire
•

19 cases, got headaches in 8 cases,
cases. felt nauseated in 5, and reported experiencing
for food in 19
some other physical reaction in 21.
2 1.

“other” physical reactions were a diverse bunch with no single type reported in
These "other"
more than a handful of cases. Officers experienced elevated levels of energy in 5 cases.
cases. In two

“added” and "excess"
“excess” energy to describe this phenomenon,
such cases officers used the terms "added"
“adrenalin rushes"
rushes” (in one case
while in the others the officers reported that they experienced "adrenalin
only upon recounting the shooting to others).
others). In three other cases officers reported trembling or

shooting. Two of these cases involved patrol officers, one
shaking at some point following the shooting.

30

Sleep problems included phenomena such as simply not being able to fall asleep, sleeping and waking in
fits, and waking-up in cold sweats. One officer reported that the sweats he experienced were so seVere
severe that
starts and fits,
after waking he would have to strip and re-sheet his bed. take a shower, and put on fresh
fiesh his sleep clothes before
seeking more slumber.
slumber.
3D

•
e

60

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(

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e

where the officer began to shake while being interviewed by the detectives who investigated the
shooting,
shooting, and the other where the shakes came as the officer told his wife about the shooting.
shooting.
I

The third case involved a SWAT marksman who began to tremble at the conclusion ofthe
of the first
call-up after the shooting in question, an incident in which he had killed an armed murder
suspect. Just one other response was reported in more than one case: an increase in appetite,
which occurred in two cases. Among the responses reported in a single case were a marked
increase in sex drive, increased alertness, bouts of diarrhea, and a compulsion to exercise, which
the officer in question indulged with a vengeance.
vengeance.
The several physical reactions officers reported are summarized in Table 10.
10. As was the
case with thoughts/feelings, frequencies are presented for all 113
1 13 cases as well as for the 104104case sub sample. Again, the information indicates that the proportion of cases in which officers
•

experienced a given response does not vary markedly between the full and reduced samples.

10 ABOUT HERE
INSERT TABLE 10

Taken together, the data on psychological/emotional and physical reactions indicate that
recurrent thoughts about the event are far and away the most common post-shooting response

officers’ minds in the wake of more
among the officers studied. When such thoughts entered officers'

(83%),
than eight of every ten shootings (83
%), none of the other specific responses were experienced in
even 50% of the cases, and only four ofthem
of them -- trouble sleeping, fatigue, anxiety, and fear of

1egaVadministrativeproblems -- occurred more than one-third of the time.
legal/administrative

•

Comptrrison With
With Previous Research
Comparison
61
61

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I

•

officers’ post-shooting responses
To get some idea of how the preceding information on officers'
figures were compared with the
fits with what has been reported in previous research, the figures
numbers reported in extant studies. The perspective offered by this exercise was limited by the
nature of the data presented in the other research because the previous studies employed a variety

findings derived from common items in a variety of ways. None of
of instruments and reported findings
studies, for example, measured all ofthe
of the post-shooting responses included in the instrument
the studies,
used in the current research; one (Artwhol and Christensen,
Christensen, 1997)
1997) reported no data whatsoever,
al., 1984) reported no information on specific responses in a form that
and another (Stratton, et aI.,
could be translated into the percent of cases where they occurred.
occurred. The nature of the extant
research thus renders impossible a thorough response-by-response comparison across studies.
studies.
What is possible is a limited comparison, which at least affords some consideration of how the
•

current data stacks up with what previous research has disclosed about officers'
officers’ post-shooting
responses.
responses.
Tables 11
relief data from current and previous studies.
1 1 and 12
12 use all 113
113 cases to set in relief
studies.

feelings, comparisons are possible onjust
on just four of the nine specific response
For thoughts and feelings,
categories used in the current study. What these comparisons show is that officers in the present
study experienced recurrent thoughts at a higher rate than did officers in the other studies,

anxiety, less frequently
frequently felt guilt, and were less likely to have nightmares.
experienced more anxiety,
Where physical reactions are concerned, the other studies provided information in a fashion that
allows for comparisons for four of the six specific responses measured in the current study. For
one of these, nausea, the two previous studies that provided data present strikingly different

•

pictures of how often officers suffer this reaction. At one end of the continuum lies Campbell
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•
a

(1992),
(1 992), who reported that just 1%
YOof the FBI agents he interviewed reported feeling nauseated.
At the other end lies Nielsen (1981),
10 officers
(198 l), who reported that more than 9 out of every 10
(92%) in his study experienced "nausea/upset
“nausedupset stomach"
stomach” following their shootings.
shootings. Given this
range, it is not surprising that the 4% nausea rate
ra’te among the officers who participated in the
current study falls
falls with the range reported in previous research. Where the other three responses

that can be compared are concerned,
concerned, officers in the current study were much more likely to report
fatigue
fatigue than were the officers in the study with the next highest fatigue rate (46% vs. the 24%

reported by Campbell), very slightly more likely to report having trouble sleeping than the
officers in the study with the next-highest rate (48% vs. the high of 46% reported by Solomon
and Horn, 1986), and slightly more likely to suffer headaches than were the officers in the study

Campbell’s 5%), but far less likely than the officers in the
with the lowest headache rate (7% vs. Campbell's
•

study with the highest rate (Nielsen, 1981,
1981, who reported that 25% of the officers he studied
experienced headaches in the wake of their shootings).
shootings).

11 AND 12
12 ABOUT HERE
INSERT TABLES 11

Overall, this limited comparative analysis of how officers in the current and previous
Overall,
studies responded in the wake of their shootings suggests that the pattern of post-shooting

reactions among the officers who participated in the present study is not wildly at odds with what
previous research has reported. In other words, the initial look at current data paints a picture
that is consistent with what previous studies presented; that a large portion of the time officers

•

who shoot citizens experience some notable post-shooting reactions. It must be kept in mind,

63
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•

however, that this first
officers' postfirst cut at the data is quite coarse because it simply examined officers’
shooting responses as
officers'
as a whole.
whole. A closer look at the current data that examines officers’
responses
responses over time, however,
however, presents a substantially different picture from the one that
emerged from
from the initial analysis.
Temporal
TemDoral Variability in Post-Shooting Responses
Tables
Tables 13
13 and 14
14 present the percentage distributions of cases where officers experienced
each of the several
of the four postseveral emotional/psychological
emotional/psychological and physical responses during each of
shooting
shooting time periods considered in this study.
study. Perhaps the most striking information conveyed
by these tables is
is a strong
strong tendency for the proportion of cases in which officers experience a
given response
51 possible adjacent time comparisons
response to diminish
diminish as time passes. Across the 51
(i.e., first
= 3
first day
day to first
first week, first week to three months, three months to post three months =

•

comparisons
5 l), the figures
figures drop in 43 of them. are equal in 5 others,
comparisons x 17
17 response categories = 51),

and increase
increase by a single
single percentage point in the other 3. By the time three months have passed,
and
moreover. the proportion of cases in which officers experienced given reactions decreased by at
moreover,

50% in 16
16 of the 17
17 response categories,3!
categories,” with 12
12 of the 16
16 falling by at least two-thirds.
least 50%

13 AND 14
14 ABOUT HERE
INSERT TABLES 13

Tables 13
13 and 14
14 also show that the temporal decrease is so pronounced that by the threeTables
few of the responses were manifest in even 10% of
of the cases.
month post-shooting mark very few
Only one
one specific
specific reaction -- recurrent thoughts -- persisted in more than one-third of
Only
of the cases,

•

31

The single
single category that didn't
didn’t drop by
by at least 50%
50% -- fear for self
self - decreased slightly, from
from 9%
9% to 8%.
8%.

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I
1I

•

and only two others broke the 10%
10% mark -- fear of legal problems and trouble sleeping -- both of
which were reported in 11
11%
YOof the cases.
cases. Because,
Because, as noted above, the directed interviews
disclosed that few of the officers who reported recurrent thoughts defined them as negative, the
percentage distributions clearly indicate
indicate that specific
specific negative post-shooting reactions were quite
rare after three months had passed. These low rates strongly suggest that only a small proportion
of the officers
officers interviewed suffered
suffered any remarkable long-term detrimental consequences from the
shootings in which they were involved.
involved.
The notion that officers tend to suffer some notable post-shooting reactions in the short
term but little disruption in the long run is supported
supported by a more sophisticated look at the data that

uses additive scales to measure the negative effects of shootings
shootings at each of the four time periods
considered in this study.
study. These scales were crafted by simply summing the scores of the 13
13

0

•

response categories that represent negative reactions,
reactions, plus any "other"
“other” reactions -- such as anger
and depression -- that could be construed as negative,
negative, for each time period and for each case.
case.”32
Because officers could have experienced
experienced each of the 13
13 specific
specific negative responses,
responses, plus a
theoretically
theoretically infinite number of "other"
“other” negative reactions, the possible scores for the scale range

frame) to a
from a low of 0 (for officers who reported no negative responses for each given time frame)
13 + N (for officers who reported all specific reactions, plus some number of "others").
“others”).
high of 13
INSERT TABLE 15
15 ABOUT HERE

Table 15
15 displays the means and frequency
frequency distributions for each of the four post-

scales. Comparisons of the scale means across all four time frames shows a
shooting adjustment scales.

32
32

•
0

Recurrent thoughts and elation were both excluded from these scales, the former because so many of the
thoughts officers reported had no negative connotation, the latter because elation is not a negative emotion.
Similarly, positive or neutral "other"
“other” responses (e.g.,
(e.g., pride) were not counted in the scales.

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marked drop in the average number of negative responses officers reported as time passes, from
2.88 in the first 24 hours, to 2.05 in the first week,
.77
week. to 1.06 within three months, and finally to .77

by the time three months had passed. Two points stand out in this pattern. One is that the mean
of nearly 3 in the initial 24-hour period indicates that the shootings typically led to some notable
short-term disruptions
disruptions for the study officers. The second is that the disruptions abated
substantially over time. Two other aspects of the data in Table 15
15 confirm this second point: 1)

the high score drops from 12
12 in the first
first 24 hours to 8 after three months have passed and 2) the
proportion of cases where officers reported no negative responses rose three-fold over the course
of three months, from 21% during the first day to 63% at the post-three month mark. In sum, the
data from the post-shooting scales clearly show that while involvement in shootings typically led
to some notable negative short-term reactions, the vast majority of the officers experienced very
•

from their shootings.
shootings. The scope of these changes over time is
little or no long term fall-out from
graphically presented in the line graph presented in Figure 8.
8.
INSERT FIGURE 8 ABOUT HERE

Insights From the Directed interviews
Interviews
The directed interviews shed substantial light on why post-shooting responses, including
those that are positive and neutral, typically diminished so markedly over time. The next several

paragraphs detail what the in-depth discussions with the officers disclosed on this point,
beginning with the most frequently reported response: recurrent thoughts.
thoughts.

Nearly all of the officers who experienced recurrent thoughts during the first day and
week following their shootings
shootings reported that their ruminations occurred largely in relation to

•

queries from third parties. Police shootings nearly always prompt major criminal and

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administrative investigations and typically raise the curiosity of the involved officers'
officers’ superiors,

peers, family, friends,
friends, the press and, sometimes, members ofthe
of the community at large (e.g., Geller
and Scott, 1992).
1992). Many of the officers in the current study reported that they were well aware
that third parties would be keenly interested in their shootings, and that their knowledge of this

prompted them to dwell on the shooting in the immediate aftermath. Their minds were then in
family, and other officers
fact directed to the shooting by the numerous queries from friends, family,
(including those conducting investigations), press coverage, and, in a few cases, community
outcry about it. As time passed and others queried them less frequently (and press coverage and
community outcry died down in those cases where notable coverage and outcry occurred), most
of the study officers thought about their shooting less and less. Thus, by the time three months

had passed since their shooting, fewer than four in ten officers reported experiencing recurrent
•

thoughts.
thoughts. In sum, the directed interviews indicated that the degree to which officers ruminated
shootings is influenced substantially by third party reactions to the event.
about their shootings
officers’ fears
fears
The directed interviews also divulged a link between social reactions and officers'
about legal/administrative problems, which helps to explain why the proportion of cases in which
officers felt such consternation declined over time. Most of the officers who reported being

worried about being indicted, disciplined by their agency, and/or sued immediately after their
shootings indicated that they felt this way because they had heard of (or knew) other officers
shootings
who had suffered such fates. In most cases, as the post-shooting investigation moved forward
and it became apparent that they would suffer no legal or administrative repercussions, the

officers’ fears
fears were allayed.
allayed. In a few cases, on the other hand, the post-shooting investigation
officers'

•
a

officers’ concerns. In these cases, some aspect of the investigative
only severed to heighten officers'
67
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process (particularly investigators'
if they were
investigators’ questions) typically led officers to feel as if
suspected of having done something wrong (see discussion of aggravation below for a related
theme).
theme).
Concerns
Concerns about legal/administrative repercussions continued for some officers until their
department
department and the criminal
criminal justice system cleared them of any wrong doing. In many cases
these clearances came within a few
few days,
days, in others it took several weeks, while in others still it
took more
more than three months. As more and more of the shootings were ruled justified as time
passed, fewer and fewer officers experienced fear that they might suffer some
legal/administrative
of legal and
legal/administrative problem. Thus an understanding of the temporal pacing of
administrative
administrative investigations into police shootings helps explain the monotonic decrease in the
portion of cases
cases where officers reported fear of legal/administrative problems (see page 78 for

•

additional
additional discussion of the relationship between litigation and post-shooting responses).
In a related vein, feelings
feelings of anxiety typically died down as time passed because the

matters that worried officers
officers played themselves out over time.
time. For officers who were anxious
matters
about the
the investigation
investigation into
into their shooting,
shooting, the investigations were typically completed in
about
relatively short
short order.
order. For officers
officers who were anxious in the immediate aftermath of
relatively
of their
shootings about the
the possibility of being involved in another one in the near future, the anxiety
shootings
waned as
as additional
additional shootings
shootings typically did not come to pass. In sum,
sum, as time passed and the
waned
concerns that
that prompted their anxiety were either resolved or faded
faded as time passed, officers
concerns
became less
less anxious.
anxious.
became
Social reactions to
to shootings also
also go
go a long way towards explaining why so many officers
Social

•

experienced sleep
sleep disruption
disruption and
and fatigue
fatigue during the first 24 hours after their shootings, as well as
experienced

68
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•
e

why the proportion of officers experiencing these responses rapidly diminished as time passed.
Many of the officers reported during the directed interviews that the investigation into their
shootings extended into the time when they would normally be sleeping, that discussions with
(e.g., peers, friends,
friends, and family) kept them occupied into some portion of the time
other people (e.g..
sleep,33 or both. With their normal
nonnal sleep cycle disrupted in the first 24
that they would normally sleep,”

hours after the shooting, many officers had trouble falling and/or staying asleep when they finally
did get to bed. For some officers, the initial disruption bled into the next day or two, which helps

frame. After the first week
account for some sleep problems reported during the week one time frame.
had passed entirely, which coincidentally corresponds with the waning of immediate third-party
interest, the majority of the officers who had some initial difficulty sleeping got back to their
nonnal
routine .
normal slumber routine.

•
a

Where fatigue
fatigue is concerned,
concerned, the pattern of initial sleep difficulties followed
followed by
stabilization helps to explain the decrease in the rate of languor over time. Logically enough,
officers who experienced sleep disruptions in the first 24 hours following their shootings tended

down, their fatigue
fatigue tended to
to be tired. As officers got the rest they needed when things calmed down,
dissipate. The directed interviews
interviews also indicated that third-party responses had a more direct link
dissipate.
fatigue officers
officers experienced.
experienced. Several ofthe
of the officers who complained of short-tenn
short-term
with the fatigue
fatigue reported that they were simply worn out from the process of repeatedly recounting the
fatigue
investigators, friends,
friends, family,
family, and so
so on. o\er
o\ er the course of several hours.
hours.
shooting to peers, investigators,
reactlon:
The directed interviews also disclosed a social component to another physical reaction:

•

a

33
example, reported that his phone kept ringing and his pager keep going off for
for se\eral
seieral
33
One officer, for example.

hours after the investigation into his shoo!
ing was completed.
shooting

69
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•
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crymg.
crying. The officers who cried typically did so when they told loved ones about the
34
For most of these
circumstances
circumstances of their shooting, usually within 24 hours of the shooting.
~hooting.’~

officers the tears came when they recounted the event to their spouses, for others when they told
other family members. The thoughts and emotions
emotions related to such crying often revolved around
concern that the officers felt for their loved ones. Some
Some officers, for example,
example, were upset that the
shooting
shooting had increased the fear that their spouses
spouses felt regarding the officers'
officers’ occupation. In a
different vein, one officer who cried when telling his mother and father that he had been in a
shooting
shooting reported that he did so because he felt sorrow for his parents. When quizzed about why
he felt sorry
s o w for them, the officer replied that he felt bad that his parents had to know that their
son was a killer.
killer.”35
One other post-shooting response that has a clear social component is elation. As
•

experienced this emotion felt it in the context of
discussed earlier, many of the officers who experienced
having proved to others that they could acquit themselves properly in a crisis setting.
setting. For some
came. logically
of these officers the understanding that others felt that they had done a good job came.
36
shooting.j6
enough, when others told them that they had done a good job, often soon after their shooting.
enough,

34

One poignant exception to this occurred when an officer
oficer broke down and cried just a few moments after
he
seriously wounding a shotgun-toting suspect. The officer was the lead man on a search warrant team when h~
confronted the suspect in a back bedroom. As the suspect began to swing his weapon toward the officer. the officer
suspect, the officer in question walked
ualked to
fired, striking the gunman in the arm. As soon as other officers secured the suspect,
the front of the house, sat down on the front porch, and began to weep uncontrollably.
34

35

Additional evidence that discussing the shootings
shootings they were involved in prompts some officers to shed
study. Several officers
officers broke down and cried as they
tears comes from the directed interviews conducted for this study.
related their stories to the PI.
35

36

One poignant example of the effect of third party praise comes from a case where the officer shot a
woinaii and her two children hostage inside their home. The officer rep0l1ed
reported that the
gunman who was holding a woman
sense of satisfaction he felt over
over- having saved the three lives was deepened further when he received a letter ti·om
from the
woman’s husband praising him
him for his actions
actions and thanking him for saving the lives of
ofhis
woman's
his wife and children
36

•

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I1

II

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e

As
of elation typically waned. !In
As time
time passed and officers typically got fewer kudos, their sense of
n
sum,
sum, the directed interviews indicated that officers'
officers’ post-shooting reactions were influenced
I

substantially by what transpired in the aftermath of shooting incidents.
A Deeper Look at Social
Social Influence on Post-Shooting Adjustment
The
The current study also produced quantitative evidence that what transpires after the
smoke
smoke
has
has cleared affects
affects officers'
officers’ post-shooting adjustment. The instrument used in the current
of the post-shooting social milieu
research included a variety of items that tapped several aspects of
that relevant literature identifies as factors
officers' post-shooting adjustment.
factors that can affect officers’
Previous
Previous research (e.g.. Artwohl and Christensen, 1997;
1997; Solomon and Horn, 1986) has suggested
that criticism from
from third parties can make matters worse for officers who shoot, support from
•

has a palliative effect. talking about the shooting and its aftermath with others is positive,
others has
others
actions by third parties that aggravate officers can be negative, civil litigation is harmful. taking
actions
some time off after shootings can help one's
one’s adjustment, killing citizens is more disruptive than
some
them, and counseling sessions with mental health professionals are helpful. The
wounding them,
instrument included items that allowed for the development of indicators that afforded the

opportunity to examine
examine each of these hypotheses. To wit:
opportunity
•e

A set of dichotomies measuring whether specific categories of
of people expressed criticism
about the actions the officers took during the shootings.

•e

Two sets
sets of dichotomies measuring the support that specific categories of
of people
Two
extended to the officers.

•

•

A set of dichotomies that measured the degree to which officers discussed their shootings
71
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i(

•

with specific
specific categories of people.
•a

A set of dichotomies
dichotomies that measured whether a variety of individuals and entities said or
did anything in relation to the shooting that aggravated the officers.

•a

A dichotomy that measured whether the officer, hisher
his/her agency, or both were named as
defendants
defendants in any civil action related to the shooting.

•

A dichotomy that measured whether the officer took any (non-punitive) time off
immediately after the shooting.

•
0

A dichotomy that measured whether any suspects died.

•

A dichotomy that measured whether the officer attended any mandatory counseling
sessions with a mental health professional.
With alpha set at .05
.05 for the one-tailed tests indicated by each hypothesis, assessment of

•

the bi-variate associations between these several measures and each of the four post-shooting
post-shooting
scales disclosed that officers' mental, emotional. and physical responses to involvement
involvement in
shootings
shootings are indeed related to what occurs in their aftermath, but not always
always as hypothesized.

Criticism
Criticism
The instrument included items that queried officers on whether fellow officers, superior
officers, family members,
members, and non-police friends
friends had criticized them about their actions in the
shooting incident. Such criticism was rare, coming from
from fellow officers in 13
13 cases. from
superior officers in 10,
the
10, from
from friends in 7, and from family
family members in just 2. Because of
of'the
separation problem that obtains when working with exceptionally highly skewed distributions,
distributions.
the relationships between criticism from family members and officers' post-shooting responses

•

were not examined.
examined. The instrument did not ask officers about the timing of any criticism that
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•
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might have come from their friends,
friends, peers, or superiors, but the directed interviews indicated that

among those cases where such opinions were expressed, they were typically delivered during the
lI

first few days following
tollowing shootings. Because the timing of the criticism creates a temporal
sequencing problem vis-a-vis officers'
officers’ responses during the first two post-shooting time periods,

the relationships between criticism and responses during the first day and week were not
examined. What remained to be assessed were the relationships between criticism from friends,
friends,

peers, and superior officers, on the one hand, and officers'
officers’ responses during the one week to
three month and post-three month time periods, on the other. The sole significant association
among the six considered was a weak one between officers'
officers’ reactions prior to the three month
mark and criticism from fellow officers (r
(r =.20). Thus the data indicates that criticism from

fellow officers is associated with a mild elevation in the degree of negative reaction officers

0

•

experience in the short term, but not in the long run. and that criticism from friends and
supervisory officers bears neither any short nor long term relationship with officers'
officers’ reactions.
reactions.”37
Support

The instrument also included two sorts of items that measured the degree of support that
others offered officers following shootings.
shootings. One type queried officers about whether each of the
following categories of people offered words of support to the officer: fellow officers, superior
officers, friends, and family members The other sort of item asked officers whether each ofthe
of the

“provided you with substantial support following this shooting":
shooting”:
following categories of people "provided
their spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend,
girlfriend, other family members, fellow officers, supervisors,
superLisors, or any

•
0

37
37

rhe criticism measures were skewed,
skewed. the scores for each case in which officers were criticized
Because the
set. if
iftlie
noteworth! patterns.
the skew was masking a relationship. This exercise disclosed no noteworthy
patterns.
were examined to sec

73

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(i

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other person. The data indicate that words of support were almost always offered by fellow
(94%), while they
officers (in
cases), superior officers (96%),
(96%), and family members (94%),
(in 99% of the cases),
II

were notably less
(just 80% of
of the time). As for “substantial
"substantial
iess likely to be proffered by friends (just
of the cases, their
support,"
support,” officers
officers felt
felt that fellow
fellow officers offered this level of support in 90% of
spouses,
58%,
spouses, girlfriends, or boyfriends did so
so in 70%, other family members did so in 58%,
%, and others did in 18%.38
supervisory
supervisory officers did so
so in 51
5 1%,
18%.j8
,

As was the case with criticism, the instrument did not ask officers about the timing of
of any
statements
statements of support were made or when "substantial
“substantial support"
support” may have been offered. The
directed interviews indicated that while supportive statements were often offered within a few
days
days of the
the shootings,
shootings, they also
also came well after the first week had passed. Keeping in mind the
caveat
caveat that
that temporal order is
is not clear-cut for the one-week to three-month time period, the

a,

.'

associations between statements of support and officers'
officers‘ reactions after one week and three
months
months were examined. Assessment of the links between officers'
officers’ responses and supportive

statements from
from superiors,
superiors, friends,
friends, and family39
family’9 disclosed that support from friends were not
statements
associated with officers'
officers’ responses
responses during
during either of the time periods considered, that such support
associated
from supervisors
supervisors was
was not associated with responses prior to three months but it was (albeit
from
weakly) afterwards
afterwards (r
(Y =
= -.20), and
and that support from family members bore a weak association
weakly)
with officers'
officers’ responses
responses both prior to
to (r
(Y = -.23) and after the three month mark (r
( r = -.-. 24).
with
The picture
picture regarding the
the role that "substantial
“substantial support"
support” plays in officers'
officers‘ post-shooting
The

58
An item
item on
on support
s~ipportfrom
from clergy was folded into the "other"
”other” category for analysis because less than a
38 An
handful of
of officers
officers reported
reported receiving
receiving such
such support ..
handful

•*

39
39

Because there
there isis essentially
essentially no
no variability in \ierbal
verbal indications of support
support from fellow officers,
ofticers, the
Because
potential effect
effect of
of fellow
fellow ofticers'
ofticers‘ supportive
supportive statements was
as not considered.
potential

74
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I

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@

adjustment is also mixed. Because the instrument sought no information about the temporal
basis for officers judgements about the degree of support proffered by others,
others. the time order of
this second measure of support and officers'
officers’ responses is problematic. Because of this,
consideration of the associations between the degree of support offered by the various parties
considered and officers'
officers’ responses was limited to the one week to three month and post-three

frames. The results of the several bi-variate models that were estimated indicate the
month time frames.
following: 1) the degree of support from spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends is not associated with
following:
post shooting responses, 2) neither is the degree of support from other family members, 3)
(Y =
=
substantial support from supervisors is a weak correlate of negative responses after one week (r

-.20) ,, but not after three months, 4) substantial support from fellow officers bears a mild
(Y = -.27) and after three months
association with lower levels of negative responses both prior to (r

•

(Y = -.24),
-.24). and 5)
5 ) support from others is not associated with any reduction in negative post(r
41J
shooting reactions.
reactions.’”

support from third parties
In sum. the empirical assessment of the association between support
officers’ post-shooting reactions offers a mixed bag of evidence regarding the relationship
and officers'
between the two phenomena. While displays of support by some third parties are associated with
a reduction in the degree of negative responses that officers experience at some points following
shootings, the significant associations are not particularly strong, they do not hold across all time
frames for all categories of people, and support from some sorts of people bear no association
whatsoever with officers'
officers’ post-shooting adjustment.
adjustment.

•*

ptrzzling result is that words of support from "others"
“others” is associated with inaeased
imwnsed levels of
40 Another puzzling
(r = .23).
negative responses after three months (r

75
75

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

Talking With
With Others
Concerning detailed discussions about shootings, the instrument asked officers whether
they had discussed the shooting in detail with their spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend, other family
members, fellow officers, superior officers, and other people. Officers had detailed discussions

with their spouses, boyfriend, or girlfriend in 85% of the cases, other family members in 76%,
fellow officers in 92%,
92%, supervisors in 69%, and other folk in 32%.41
32%.41 Ignoring the first two time
periods due to the now familiar concerns about temporal sequencing, computation of the zeroorder correlations between each of these five
scales for the
five categories
categories of people and the response scales
last two time periods disclosed the following:
following: 1) talking in detail with one's
one’s significant other
about the shooting was not related to post-shooting responses, 2) detailed discussions with other
family members was not related to post-shooting responses, 3) talking with superior officers
officers was

0

•

associated with a slight reduction in the degree of negative responses during both the one week to
three month and post three month time periods (r
(Y = - .24
.24 for both), 4) discussing in detail the
shooting with fellow officers was associated with a modest reduction in the degree of negative
responses during
durins both time periods considered (r
(r = -- .36
.36 after one week and rt- =
= - .35
2.5 after three
months),41
5 ) detailed conversations with other third parties was not associated
associated with a
months),“ and 5)

‘IS Ihe
tlie case with "substantial
“substantial support,"
support.” the
tlie instrument included a clergy
clergq item
iteni regarding discussions
4141 As \VilS
that was folded
folded inll.
i n t o the "other"
“other” category for
for analysis.
analysis.

42
41
Additi\lnal
discussing the shooting with other officers comes from the
Additional evidence for the positive effect of
otdiscussing

•
0

officers’ respllllses
responses to two statements included in 1he
the instrument. Fifty-eight percent
perceiit of the officers agreed with
study officers'
” I t h.:lped
Iiclped me to
to talk with other officers \\~ hoh had
o been involved in shooting
shooting incidents."
incidents,” and 65%
the statement. "It
statement, "It
“It helped me to share
share experiences and feelings with others
others who had been involved in
agreed with the stalelllent,
shootings."
shootings.“

76
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•
e

officers' negative re~ponses.~’
responses. 43 Thus the data discloses that discussions with some
reduction in officers’
of people are associated with some reduction in the degree of
of negative reactions that
categories of

officers expenence, while discussions with others are not.

Aggravation
The instrument asked officers whether any of the following categories of people and
entities caused them aggravation related to the shooting: fellow officers (they did in 14%
14% of the
cases), supervisors (yes in 22%), politicians (yes in 3%),
3%), non-law enforcement friends (yes in
7%),
prosecutor's office (yes in 4%),
7%), news media (yes in 30%), prosecutor’s
4%), suspect's
suspect’s attorney (yes in 20%),

suspect’s friends
friends and/or family (yes in 12%),
12%), and any other person or entity (yes in 12%).
12%). The
suspect's
directed interviews indicated that when officers felt aggravation, it was typically about specific

specific action they took. The following
following examples
words that some individual said or some specific
•

@

felt aggravated:
aggravated:
illustrate the sorts of cases where officers felt
•e

An officer reported being quite aggravated with one of his peers who was present at the

repeated]). showing
showing up at his calls for no legitimate reason in the
shooting in question for repeatedly
weeks following
following the incident.
incident.
•e

furious with a deputy district attorney who possessed aspirations for
for
An officer was furious
“playing politics"
politics‘‘ with his shooting by repeatedly discussing it in a
higher office for "playing
negative light with members of the press.
press.

•

0

Several officers were upset by some
some aspect of the formal
formal investigation into
into their
Several
shootings. Among these cases
cases was
was one
one in which the
the officer was
was peeved when
when one
one of the
the
shootings.

•
0

J:1
4

however, there
there are
are slight and
and modest increases
increases in
in negative reactions after
after one
one week (r
(r == .19)
.19) and
and
Again. however,
( r == .33),
.-33), respectively.
three months (r
three

77
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I/

iI

•

detectives accused him of being less than forthright
forthright about the number of rounds he fired
because the detective was unaware that many SWAT officers do not carry fully-loaded
fully-loaded
clips in their assault rifles,44 and another where the officer felt he was being judged too
harshly by his department's
department’s shooting review board when they criticized him for not using
Spanish when he ordered an English-speaking
English-speaking Hispanic suspect to "drop
“drop the knife"
knife” before
he fired.
fired.
•

Several
Several officers were incensed with particular journalists and/or news organizations for
grossly misrepresenting pertinent facts
facts about their shootings
shootings on the air, in print, or both.

•

A few of the officers who checked the "other"
“other” category were aggrieved with their spouses
45
for failing to offer them the support they felt that they deserved.
deserved.45
Estimation of the zero-order correlations
correlations between the several sources of aggravation and

0

•

officers’ responses during the later two time frames
frames disclosed the following:
following: 1) Aggravation from
officers'
prosecutor's office was associated with higher levels of negative
peers, superior officers, and the prosecutor‘s
responses after both one week and three months. For aggravation with fellow officers,
officers, r == .44 at
one week plus and rr == .27 after three months;
months; for superior officers the figures are .37
3 7 and .34,
34,
respectively, and for the prosecutor's
prosecutor‘s office they are .42 and .40 respectively.
respectively. 2) Aggravation

“other” sources was associated with higher levels of negative responses
from the news media and "other"

4
44

The officer in question carried ait standard 30 round clip in his assault rifle, but. like many SW
AT officers,
SWAT
38 bullets in it in order to relieve the pressure on the spring that pushed fresh ammunition into the breech
only kept 28
the tiring
firing cycle. The investigator had never heard of this practice and thus thought that the officer must have
during thc
admittins to.
fired two more rounds than he was admitting
1’.

.,> Three male officers
officers in particular expressed great anger at their wives for the way they reacted to the

•
e

spouses were antagonistic towards them, even to the point of
shooting. In these cases the officers reported that their spouses
telling tht:
the officers
ofticers that they should have figured
fisured out some way of resolving the situation without shooting anyone.
anyone.
“1 was disappointed with my
All three of
ofthese
these officers (along with nine others) agreed with the statement that, "I
spouse/bo\
spouse!bo\ 'girlfriends
‘girlfriends reaction to the incidcnt.'·
incident.“

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•

after three months, but not before; with three month-plus correlations of.22
of .22 and .27, respectively.
3) Aggravation with suspects'
officers'
suspects’ attorneys and non-police friends was not associated with officers’
II

46
either time interva1.
interval.46
responses at eIther

Time Off
Off
Time
Officers took non-punitive department mandated time away from work following 69 of

the cases. Because the days off were taken during the first
first week following the shootings, the
associations between time off and post-shooting reactions were estimated for the one week to
three month and post-three month time frames only.
only. The zero-order correlations
correlations indicate that
taking some time off is associated with a mild reduction in negative reactions prior to the three
month mark (r
(r =
= .18)
. l S ) but that it is not associated with long-term reactions.
Civil Litigation

•
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Fourteen of the cases resulted in civil litigation wherein the officer, the officers'
officers’
department, or both were named as defendants.
defendants. Because such litigation was typically filed and
adjudicated well after three months have passed, the only litigation-reaction link assessed was

that between the post-three month response scale and whether a civil claim was filed (a 0-1
dichotomy). Contrary to expectations.
expectations, there was no relationship between civil litigation
dichotomy).
emanating from the shooting and officers'
officers’ long-term post-shooting adjustment.
a d j ~ s t m e n47 t . ~ ~

4h

The link between responses and agpiavation
aggravation with politicians was not estimated because so few officers
reported being aggravated with politicians.
-II>

47

•
a

n One interesting aspect of the civil action picture concerns the relationship between litigation and fear of
legal, administrative
‘idministrative problems. Among the 14
14 cases
m e s tthat
h d t did result in civil claims.
claims, officers
officers reported harboring fears of
of
legaL
‘idministrative problems at some point foll\lwing
following the shooting in just six.
six. By the time three months had passed.
legal administrative
this number had dropped to just three. Another thing for
tor readers to keep in mind is that civil litigation could have
iri those cases in which the interviews weie
been tiled after data collection was completed ill
were conducted within three
the shootings.
years of
ofthe

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(I/

•

Mental Health Services
More striking still was the finding that attending department-mandated meetings with
,

I

mental health professionals (MHPs) in the wake of shootings was not associated with officers'
officers’

“spoken
reactions. The instrument included an item that asked the officers whether they had "spoken
with a mental health professional (e.g., psychologist, psychiatrist) about .the
the shooting?"
shooting?” The
response categories were "yes,
so", "yes,
“yes, my department required me to do SO”,
“yes, I did so on my own",
own”,
,

and "no:"
“no.“ Officers were instructed to check all categories that applied to them. Officers spoke
with no MHP in 16 of the cases, attended only mandatory sessions in 79, attended only sessions
with a counselor they sought on their own in 4, and sought out additional counseling after
attending mandatory sessions in the remaining 14
14 cases.
cases. A measure of mandatory counseling
was crafted by joining the 79 cases in which the sole sessions attended were mandatory with the
•

14 in which officers sought subsequent sessions on their own, yielding ,aa dichotomy with a
14

93 cases where officers attended mandatory meetings and 20 where they did not.
distribution of 93
Because the mandatory sessions that officers attended typically took place during the first seven

following shootings,
shootings, consideration of the associations between mandatory counseling
days following
officers’ reactions was limited to the one week to three month and post-three month
sessions and officers'
time periods. There were no significant differences in response scores between those cases

where officers attended mandatary meetings with MHPs and those whcre
wh~re they did not at either
time period (r
(Y = .06 and -.02 for pre- and post-three months, respectivdy).
respectivLsly). Because the null

officers‘
unexpl"cted, the issue of officers'
findings regarding the effects of mental health counseling were unexpccted,
interactions with MHPs will be revisited in some depth in the concluding section of this report.

•

5,'uspect
Sirspect Injury

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(I

•
e

All four post-shooting
post-shooting scales
scales were regressed on a dichotomous
dichotomous measure of whether the
shooting led to the death of any suspects
1 13 cases).
cases). None
suspects (at least one suspect
suspect died in 65 of the 113
of the associations
associations was significant.
significant.

Previous Shootings
Shootings
Thirty-three
Thirty-three of the shootings
shootings in the present sample involved officers
officers who had previously
shot someone
someone during their careers in law enforcement.
enforcement. This aspect of the data set affords
affords an
opportunity
opportunity to examine whether post-shooting
post-shooting adjustment
adjustment following
following a given shooting is affected
affected

by involvement in previous shootings.
shootings. It could be that there is a cumulative
cumulative effect of shootings
shootings
so that negative responses following
following subsequent shootings
shootings are exacerbated by having been

ones. On the other hand, it could be that involvement in previous shootings
shootings
involved in previous ones.
post-shooting response
serves to reduce the degree of negative post-shooting
response in subsequent
subsequent shootings because
•

officers are familiar
familiar with these events and related post-shooting
assess
officers
post-shooting procedures.
procedures. In order to assess
evidence of either sort of effect in the present data.
data. the sample was first divided
whether there is evidence
shootings that were an officers
officers first (or only) and shootings
shootings by an officer that had been
into shootings
involved
involved in a previous
previous shooting.
shooting. Each of the four post-shooting scales were then regressed on the
binary measure created by the sample subdivision
subdivision and the findings
findings from these bi-variate models
were then checked with ANOV
A. The analysis
ANOVA.
analysis disclosed
disclosed no significant
significant differences
differences between the

“groups” of shootings
shootings during
during the first day and first week follnwing
following shootings,
shootings, but that
two "groups"
officers who had been in previous shootings
shootings experienced
experienced slightly
slight]! higher levels of distress
distress after
officers
tirst "\leek
cieek (r
( r =.24)
=.24) and after
after three months (r
(Y =
= .23).
23). These findings
findings suggest that shootings
shootings
the first

ma!
officers’ longer term post-shooting adjustment,
adjustment, but that
may ha\ e a cumulative effect on officers'

•

81
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e

•

48

involvement in previous shootings
shootings does
does not exert effects on short term adjustment.
adj~stment.~~
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN REACTIONS
REACTIONS AFTER AND DURING SHOOTINGS
SHOOTINGS
Scholars
Scholars who study how people react to involvement in traumatic events
events have recently
begun to investigate the notion that post-event responses are influenced by perceptual distortions
during them. Using the term "peritraumatic
“peritraumatic dissociation"
dissociation” to describe alterations in perception
during traumatic events, these researchers have assessed the relationship between perceptual
distortions and post-event responses in populations such as combat veterans (e.g., Marmar et aI.,
al.,
1994), crime victims (e.g., Griffin et aI.,
al., 1997),
1997), and emergency service personnel who responded
to mass disasters (e.g., Weiss et a!.,
al., 1995).
1995). These studies have consistently found
found a link between
dissociative reactions and post-ewnt
post-e\ ent responses, with subjects
subjects who experience higher levels of

•

e

distortion tending to have more problems in the wake of traumatic episodes.
The measures of perceptual distortions and post-shooting responses in the current data
afford an opportunity to investigate whether peritraumatic dissociation and post-event adjustment
are likewise associated among police
pol ice officers who shoot citizens. The first step in executing this
opportunity was to estimate the bi
hi-variate
-variate relationships between the three distortion measures
(i.e., prior to firing,
firing, upon firing,
firing, and
aiid overall) and the post-shooting scales for each of the four

time periods. With alpha set at .05
. 0 5 for one-tailed tests, just 2 of the 12
12 correlations were
occurred as officers
ofiicers
significant. Both of these were \\M cak and both pertained to distortions that occUlTed
significant.
nere
nced higher levels of
"vere firing:
firing: when officers experic
experiL'nced
of distortion upon pulling the trigger. they
tended to suffer from slightly higlier
higller levels of negative responses in the first
tirst day and week

•

48
48

The same sort of
of analysis wit
w;, ' conducted with the three distortion scales to assess whether previous
previolls
ctiootings
ing subsequent ones. There were no significant differences in level\
levels of
of
shootings affected officers’
officers' reactions du
dUll1g
officers' first and subsequent ones.
distortions experienced during shooting that were officers’
~

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•
e

following the shooting (r
(r =
= .18 and .17, respectively).
The second step in the investigation into the relationship between distortion and postshooting response was to examine the zero-order relationships between the three distortion scales
and each of the 13
13 specific negative post-shooting responses that were measured in the current
study. This exercise disclosed several significant associations across the four time periods (with
alpha set at .05
.05 for one-tailed tests).
tests). During the first 24 hours, three responses were correlated

with at least one of the distortion measures: appetite loss (r
(r =
= .16 upon firing
firing and .17 for total
distortion), fatigue (prior,
= .18,
.18; upon firing,
firing, r =
= .23, and total, rY =
= .23), and sadness (upon
(prior, r =
firing, rY =.21). During the first week, there were four negative responses that were significantly
associated with perceptual distortions
distortions during shootings: appetite loss (r
(r == .16 upon firing),
fatigue (r
(Y =.18
=.18 upon firing
firing and r =.16
=. 16 total), numbness (r
(Y =.16
=. 16 upon firing and r =.17
=. 17 total). and

a

•

sadness (prior, rY =
= .25, upon firing,
firing. r = .27,
.27, and total, r =
= .29).
.29). Between the one week and three
month mark, the sole significant association was between fatigue and distortions while firing
(r =
firing (r

.19). Finally, after three months had passed.
.19).
passed, both sadness and guilt were significantly related with

.23. while
all three distortion measures. The correlations for sadness were as follows: prior, rr = .23,
firing, r =
= .21, and total, rY = .25.
2 5 . For guilt,
guilt. the statistics were r =
= .24 for prior, r =
= .18 while
firing, and rY == .24 for total distortion.
distortion."49
The final step in the examination of the link between dissociative reactions during

•

i i m of events, the likelihood that officers would cry at certain time periods
49 In another unexpected lurn
distortion they experienced during shootings increased. The likelihood of crying in the
decreased as the degree of distortioll
following a shooting was lower when officers experienced more distortions prior to firing (r
( r == -.22).
- 2 2 ) . The
first week following
one \\eek
\\eel\ and three months post-shooting dropped as officers' during and total scale
likelihood of crying between olle
( F -.23
- .23 and - .20.
2 0 . respectively).
scores increased (r=

83
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•

shootings and post-shooting adjustment was to look at the relationships between distortion and
the two specific responses that were not defined as negative: elation and recurrent thoughts.
(because there is no expectation of direction), this
With alpha set at .05
.05 for two-tailed tests (because

exercise disclosed that both responses bore short-term significant relationships with all three
distortion scales. When officers experienced higher levels of distortion prior to shooting, as they
shot, and overall, they were more likely to experience elation during both the first 24 hours and
the rest of the initial week, but not afterwards. The first-day correlations between elation and
distortion were as follows: prior, r =
= .28,
.28, during, r =.25 ,, and total, rY =.30. The statistics for the
first week were rr == .23, 040,
.40, and .36,
2 6 , respectively. Where recurrent thoughts are concerned,
concerned:
significant associations were observed only during the first week, with prior, rY =.21, during,
during. r

•

=.24, and total,

r= .25.

traumatic
Some of the research that examines the link between distortions during traumatic
episodes and post-event adjustment has also examined the possibility that feelings of fear for

afterwards (e.g., Griffin et aI.,
al.,
one's safety during such events might lead to increased difficulties afterwards

1997). In order to round out consideration of the relationship between officers' reactions during
1997).
for self and negative
shootings and their post-shooting adjustment, the association between fear for
examined. Three
Three indicators of fear
fear for
for self wer~
ivere
post-shooting responses in the current data was examined.
exercise: the two dichotomies that measured fear prior to and while firing, plus a;I
used in this exercise:
llsed
from the two binary measures (i.e., 0 =
= no fear,
fear, 1 == tear
tealthree-step scale that summed the scores from

.05 for
for one-taikJ
one-tailcd
either prior to or while firing. and 2 = fear at both times). With alpha set at .05

•
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tests, zero-order correlations between these three fear measures
measiires and the four post-shooting
post-shooting scall's
4c.alt.s
tests.

84
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II

I1

•

following: 1) All three fear measures were associated with mild to moderately
disclosed the following:
scores on the first day post-shooting response
response scale (r
(r =
= .37
3 7 for prior fear, rY =.26
=.26 for fear
higher scores

.35 for total fear).
fear). 2) The strength of the associations between fear and
while firing, and r == .35
(to .38
.38 for prior fear,
fear, .37
.37 for fear while
negative reactions increased slightly during the first week (to

firing, and .41
.41 for total fear),
fear), then dropped after that (during the one week to three month time
firing,

. I 9 for prior fear,
fear, .20 for fear while firing,
firing, and .22 for total fear,
fear, while only prior fear
frame rr = .19
frame
bore a significant
significant association with the post-three month response scale [r
[Y =
= .17]). In sum,
sum,

shootings and negative reactions after them
assessment of the relationship between fear during shootings
disclosed a link between the two that was modest during the first 24 hours, grew in strength a bit

day, and then declined markedly as time passed.
after the first day,
officers’
The following points summarize what the present data disclose about officers'
•

shootings: 1) officers experienced a wide variety of psychological,
experiences in the wake of shootings:
emotional. and physical reactions to being involved in shootings, 2)
2) the single most commonly
emotional,
experienced reaction was recurrent thoughts,
thoughts. which officers experienced following
following more than

shootings, 3)
3) no other single
single response was reported in even half of the cases, 4)
eight out of ten shootings,
of the shootings led to some notable short-term disruption in the involved officers'
officers’
while most ofthe

as time passed, 5) officers'
officers’ postlives, in most cases negative reactions dissipated substantially as
lives,
shooting reactions are influenced by how third parties respond to shootings
shootings events, and 6)
6)
shooting
officers’ post-shooting reactions are related to the thoughts,
thoughts, feelings,
feelings, and physical reactions they
officers'
experience during shooting events.

With the above information on officers'
officers’ responses after shootings
shootings in
in hand, attention now

•
a

turns to a discussion that summarizes
suinmarizes the findings
findings of this study.
study. highlights some of the policy
turns
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•

implications if
if it, and points out some needs for additional research on officers’
officers' reactions to
involvement in shootings.

DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The preceding pages contain numerous findings about a variety of topics regarding police
officers’
officers' responses to involvement in shootings. Perhaps the single most salient point among
them is that the act of shooting another human being typically did not produce lasting disruption
officers studied.
studied. It is indeed remarkable that the officers'
officers’ involved in more
in the lives of the officers
half of the shootings
than half
shootings reported absolutely no negative psychological, emotional, or physical
responses after one week had passed since the incident and that the percentage of cases in which
officers were reaction-free increased to nearly two-thirds at the three month mark. Additional
analysis undertaken to gain some sense of how the current data fits
fits with what previous research
•

has reported about officers'
officers’ long-term adjustment places this key point in a comparative context.

As noted above, two previous studies reported on the long-term effects of shootings on
police officers. Stratton et al. (1984) and Solomon and Horn (1986) used different criteria for
classifying the severi
severity
officers’ reactions, yet both reported that a similar proportion of
classifying
ty of officers'
problems . Stratton et al.
al. reported that 31
31%
officers experienced notable long-term problems.
% of the
shootings hey were involved in had a substantial
substantial longdeputies they queried indicated that the shootings
term impact on them. while Solomon and Horn reported that 28% of the officers in their study
had "severe"
“severe” 10ng-tenTI
long-tenm reactions. Following the logic that
thLitSolomon and Horn used to judge the
011 page
pagc 86
86 for details
details of their measurement
severity of post-shooting reactions (see discussion on

ha1 cc‘ had a "severe"
“severe” long-term reaction
scheme), officers in the current study were deemed to hm

•
a

t u o or more negative responses aller
alter three months had passed since their
when they experienced two
86
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0

•

shootings. Analysis disclosed that 19%
19% of the cases meet these criteria. With fewer than one in
shootings.
five shootings producing "severe"
“severe” long-term reactions, it is evident that officers in the current
study were far less likely to suffer protracted problems than were their peers who participated in
research. 50
previous research.’”
Why this is so is a question worthy of consideration.
consideration. One possibility is that the answer
lies in the composition
composition of the current sample, which includes a disproportionate number of
SWAT officers. S
WAT officers, one might reason, would be less likely to suffer serious
SWAT
serious longterm problems following shootings because they have a more aggressive, action oriented, outlook

than does the average officer. In order to investigate the possibility that the over-sample of
SWAT officers in the current study accounts for the low rate of severe long-term reactions, the

(N = 65) was
rate of severe responses among cases involving officers with SWAT experience (N
•

compared to the rate for those that involved non-SWAT officers (N = 40). There was no

SWAT-cop shootings resulted in
significant difference betneen
between the two groups; 20.0% of the SWAT-cop
two or more negative reactions after three months, while the figure for non-SWAT shootings was

(2= .21
.2 1 where a score of 1.65
1.65 or greater would indicate a significant difference in the
18.4% (2
18.4%

predicted direction).
direction). The data thus indicate that the presence of a disproportionate number of
SWAT officers does not account for the low frequency of severe responses in the present

research.”
research. 51
rcsponses
Another possible explanation for the markedly lower rate of severe long-term responses

50
.
50 C
Coiinting
ountmg

Im:e or more negative
. Ilong-term
' .as."severe"
h
.
reactions
“severe” sows
shows
dramirtlc difference
tthrce
ong-term reactIons
an even more dram(llll'
previous rewarch.
“severe” response rate ofjust 10%.
10%.
between the current and previolls
research. It yields a "severe"

•
0

51 .
51 Time

65 cii\c>
ca,c~ where the
four scale scores here
were also regressed on a dummy variable that differentiated the 65
S U AT
ZT experience from the 40 others.
others. The result: rr === -- .003.
involved officer had S\\

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I

•

in the current data is
is that it is
is an artifact of differences
differences between the present and
and previous studies
studies
in instrumentation and other aspects of the methods used to gauge officers'
officers’ long-term adjustment
to involvement in shootings. A brief discussion of how Stratton et a1.
al. (1984)
(1 984) and Solomon and
Horn (1986)
(1 986) classified the severity of officers'
officers’ reactions details
details why this might be so.
so. Stratton et
a1.
al. provide absolutely no information about the post-shooting time frame
frame to which their usage of
the phrase "long-term"
“long-term” applies.
applies. They simply present the phrase in the title of a table that includes
the percentage distribution of deputies'
deputies’ responses to a single
single five-point Likert-type item that
asked them to rate the degree to which the shooting affected them. Stratton et al.
al. then combined
the two highest response categories to yield the 30%
30% long-term severity figure
figure reported above.
above. It
IS
is

thus clear that the method that Stratton et a1.
al. used to classify the severity of long-term reactions

0

•

has virtually nothing in common with the one used in the current research.

officers’ long-term reactions to
to
The method the current research used to gauge officers'
involvement in shootings shares substantially more in common with the one used by
bq Solomon
and Hom
Horn (1986),
(1986), for both base their severity ratings on the number of reactions officers
experienced after three months had passed since their shootings. A closer look at precisely how
Solomon and Hom
Horn classified officers'
officers‘ reactions as severe, however, indicates that
thal the methods
used in the two
erity rates are not as compatible as they might first appear.
studies to develop se\
severity
appear. Solonion
Solomon and

Horn based their sekct-ity
sevcrity rating on a combination of 1)
I) officers’
officers' responses to 15 tike-step
live-step Likerttype items that quericd
queri,:d officers about the degree to which they experienced speci tic negative

•

post-shooting reactions and 2) the length of time that ofticers
ng each
officers reported experieiici
experiencing

@

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•

a

reaction. Officers
of
Officers were deemed to have had a severe reaction when their scores on 2 or more of
the
the 15
15 items
items exceeded three and they indicated that the response persisted at this level after three
months
of reactions
months had passed since
since the
the shooting.
shooting.”52 Because the current study used the presence of
during
of the strength and
during a specific time frame
frame (i.e.,
(i.e.ythree-plus months), as opposed to ratings of
duration
duration of reactions, it is clear that there are substantial differences in the methods the two
studies
studies used to classify
classifjr the severity of officers'
officers’ responses.
It
It is
is apparent from
from the above
above information that Stratton et a1.
al. (1984) , Solomon and Horn
(1986),
of
(1986), and the current study used substantially different methodologies to accomplish the task of
divining
if all three
divining the severity of officers'
officers’ long-term reactions. Consequently, it is possible that if
studies
studies had used the same
same instrument for measuring officers'
officers’ post-shooting reactions during
specific time frames
frames and the same criteria for scoring the severity of long-term responses that

0

•

differences
differences between the current and previous findings
findings would not have been so great. In other

words, it is possible that the differences in observed severity rates between the current research
words,
and previous studies are not due to actual differences in officers’
officers' reactions across the three
studies, but rather to differences in the methods used to arrive at the figures in question.
Implications For Mental Health Training and Services

Whatever the reason for the comparatively low rate of
of severe responses in the current
data, the fact that the officers involved in fewer than one in five of
of the shootings examined
data,
experienced two or more negative reactions after three months had passed has at least one

•

52 Solomon and Horn report that about 20% ofthe
of the respondents did not indicate the amount oftliiie
of lime they
experienced a given reaction. In such cases, the officer was deemed to have had a severe reaction if
if s’he
s/he rated
rated three
more of
of the
the reactions
reactions at
at level
level 4 or
or 5. Solomon
Solomon and Horn provide no information about how many
many of
of the
the officers
or more
110offered temporal information
falling into
into their
their severe
severe classification
classification came from the 80% \\\Iho
falling
information arid
and how
ho", many
many came
from the other 20%.
20%. nor. for that matter, any information 011
from
all how
how many
many of
of the
the 80% who
who did
did not
not fall
fall into
into the
the severe
severe
i f the secondary criteria were uwd
to
cla4sify
their
reactions.
classification would have if
used
classify
reactions .

8‘)

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a

•

important implication for training on the aftermath of police shootings. In recent years it has
become vogue in some law enforcement training circles to stress the severe negative reactions

1980; see also
that befall some officers who shoot (see,
(see. e.g., Adams,
Adams. McTernan, and Remsberg, 1980;
Everly and Mitchell, 1997
1997 for an example of the more general trend to emphasize negative

psychological outcomes following critical incidents of any sort).
sort). The present study suggests that
this emphasis is inappropriate, and may even be counter-productive.
counter-productive. It is inappropriate because
stressing the severe responses that infrequently occur paints an inaccurate picture of what officers
typically experience following shootings.
shootings. It may be counter-productive because it may be setting
officers up to have more severe reactions than they otherwise might when they do become
involved in a shooting.

The power of suggestion is a well-documented phenomenon (see, e.g., Rosenthal and
Jacobsen, 1968), and researchers have documented the threat of iatrogenic psychological injury
posed by interventions based on the assumption that those exposed to critical incidents will
necessarily suffer from exposure (Gist, Lubin. and Redburn, 1999),
1999), so telling officers that they
shootings might well help produce such discomfort
can expect to suffer if they get involved in sho(ltings

following shootings. Indeed, as reported in footnote 29, the current sample included several
\vrong with them because they did not experience
officers who wondered if there was something wrong
the negative reactions they were told about in training, and one whose reaction mas
was plainly
exacerbated by his concern that he was not suffering
suftcring in the fashion that he had been taughtY
taught.j' In
o i l post-shooting reactions should stress that most
sum, the present research suggests that training on

run. Indeed, given the fact that substantial portions of
officers who shoot do just fine in the long run.

•

See
';See
53

Higgens
( I 987) for a discussion
discussion of the thl'llrdical
thcorctical underpinnings ofthis
of this phenorneiion.
H
iggen~ (1987)
phenomellon .
\)(
il(I1

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I

I

e

•

officers
officers who participated in the current study experienced either zero or just a single negative
reaction during the first day and week following
(38% and 52%, respectively), training
following a shooting (38%
should similarly stress that many officers have mild short-term reactions.
The findings
findings that few officers suffer notable long-term consequences
consequences from
from involvement in
shootings
shootings similarly suggest that the law enforcement community should re-think some of the

post-shooting mental health protocols currently in place around the nation (e.g., mandatory
critical incident stress debriefings). Just as training based on the assumption that officers will
experience
experience problems in the wake of shootings
shootings may set the stage for post-shooting problems, so to
can post-shooting procedures based on the assumption that officers need mental health
intervention in order to avoid expected problems. Gilbert and Silvera 1996
1996 work on that they
call "overhelping"
“overhelping” indicates that attempts
attempts of help people who would have done just fine can have

0

•

f-efficacy and thus set the stage for
the unintended consequence
consequence of harming their sense
sense of sel
self-efficacy

maladjustment by weakening a faculty that is critical for sound adjustment (see page 15
15 of Gist
maladjustment
1999 for a succinct discussion of this pnint).
point). Thus should those charged with caring
Lubin. 1999
and Lubin,
shootings be aware of the potential for iatrogenic injury and take steps
for officers in the wake of shootings
to ensure that the helping hand they wish to offer does not instead harm.

On the other hand, the evidence that officers often do just fine in the short term and only

experience notable long-term problenis
infrequently experience
problems should not be taken as evidence that police
shootings are no big deal.
deal. In the first
first place, the rcqearch
shootings do
shootings
n::-.;earch clearly indicates that most shootings
lead to notable disruption immediately afterward. In the second place, the research also clearly

•

shootings can and do lead to substantial
substaritial long-term tumult for some officers. When
indicates that shootings
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•

e

officers suffer from
from combinations of phenomena such as
as sleep
sleep disruption,
disruption, fatigue,
fatigue, nightmares,
and depression more than three months after a shooting,
shooting, the incident has plainly taken a
substantial toll.
toll. While such reactions are mercifully
mercifdly infrequent, they are by no means rare and
thus constitute a prominent part of the picture of what happens to police officers who shoot.
shoot.
Consequently, the fact that some officers suffer substantial long-term difficulties following
shootings
shootings should be presented in police training, but in the context of the larger picture that most
officers, following
following notable short-term disruption, do fine
fine in the long-run. This understanding
should also be incorporated into the approach that agencies take to post-shooting mental health

procedures.
procedures.
Another question pertaining to officers'
officers’ long-term adjustment that was raised by the
current data is why participation in mandatory mental health counseling did not reduce the degree
•

of negative
negati1.e reactions officers experienced after the first week following their shootings. The
directed interviews shed some light on this question. Many of the officers who attended
mandatory
mandaton. counseling reported that they did not view the sessions as a positive experience.
experience. Most
of the officers who
\vho held this opinion viewed the sessions as something their department required
only because it was interested in "covering
“covering its ass,"
ass,” not because it cared about the officer's
officer’s wellbeing. Because they viewed the counseling sessions as a departmental
departmental CYA exercise, these
officers simply sought to get the through the sessions, offering as little information as possible to

the MHP \tit11
Vvi th whom they met. Several of
of the officers
oflicers who took this approach to required
counseling scssions
sessions reported to the interviemer
interviewer that they flat-out lied to the MHP because they
did not wibh
wish to divulge their thoughts, feelings, and experiences to a stranger who had ties with

•

their depai-tnient.
department. In a related vein, other ot‘licers
officers indicated that they were less than forthright
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a

•

during their counseling sessions because they felt that the MHP they were sent to visit was
incompetent. One such officer (who worked for a big city police agency) became quite animated
incompetent.
during the directed interview as he described his meeting with the doctor his department sent him
to. When the doctor invited him into his office to officer noticed that the glasses he wore were
sliding of his head because the temple on one side was missing and that the office was a mess,

with books and papers piled all over the place and furniture that was in tatters. The officer
assumed that the doctor was either moving into or out of the office, so he asked him which it
was. When the doctor replied that he had been practicing there for quite sometime
sonietime and asked the
officer
officer why he inquired about a move, the officer decided that it was unlikely that a doctor who

could not keep his glasses stable on his head and who was unaware that his office was in

•
e

shambles had anything to offer an officer who'd
who’d just been in a shooting.
It is thus possible that the null finding regarding the efficacy of mandatory post-shooting

meetings with MHPs is a consequence of the context in which the counseling sessions took
place. When officers do not feel comfortable, they are not likely to divulge pertinent information
shootings and what they experienced afterwards.
afterwards. In turn, when officers are not
about their shootiiigs
forthcoming during counseling sessions, it is not surprising that the sessions do not benefit
54
them.
them.54

fiere not associated
Wharcver the reason for the finding that mandatory MHP sessions were
Whatcver
long-term
ther~ is substantial room
m reactions, it is clear from the directed interviews is that there
with long-tei

5-1
54

•

\Ii\)iild also be noted here that several officers offered words of praise for the
VHP’s with whom they
It sh\>Llld
the~HP's
o f t i c c i who was contemplating
contemplating suicide
suicide (see
(.;,e page 58),
58), for example, gave IllS
his coun,e1or
coiinwlor high marks for
met. The offilll
t h c ,ource
mirce and nature of
ofthe
recognizing thL'
the problem hhL'c was experiencing and for helping hiin
him IO
to resolve it.

93

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I

e

•

for
for improvement in the
the delivery
delivery of mental
mental health services
services to
to officers who
who become involved in
shootings.
shootings. The major point in this connection is
is that agencies
agencies must develop protocols that instill
confidence among
among officers
officers where
where post-shooting mental
mental health counseling is
is concerned.
concerned. It should
should
be obvious
obvious that unless officers believe that counselors
counselors they meet with are
are competent,
competent, have the
officers'
officers’ best interest in mind,
mind, and
and are independent from the police department,
department. that those
officers who do suffer in the wake of shootings
shootings will be quite unlikely to avail themselves of the

need.
mental health assistance they need.
Implications for Immediate Aftermath of Shootings
Shootinm
Other points raised in the directed interviews
interviews are relevant to how police agencies manage
the aftermath of officer-involved shootings; these pertain to the immediate post-shooting
procedures. The vast majority ofthe
of the officers reported that they had been treated well by their
•

peers and supervisors at the scene of the incident, that the detectives who investigated the
shooting treated them fairly,5;
fairly,” and that other members of their agency likewise acted in ways that
made them feel comfortable. Officers appreciated it when peers and supervisors followed what

the officer felt were appropriate post-shooting procedures (e.g., protecting the shooting scene,
honoring officers'
officers’ requests to call loved ones), expressed concern for them, offered words of
encouragement, and let the officer set the tone of
of interactions; they appreciated it when the
detectives explained what they were doing and conducted what the officers felt were thorough
investigations; and they appreciated it when others in the agency did their jobs in a professional
fashion and inquired about the officers well-being in a non-intrusive manner.

•

Fi

Officers responded affirmatively to the statement, “"[I was treated like a suspect during the investigation of
of
the incident”
inciLlenC' in just five cases.
-55-

94

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I

•
a

While the directed interviews
interviews identified several positive points about how agencies
handled the immediate aftermath of shootings, they also disclosed numerous missteps that raised
officers' ire. Many of the complaints officers reported focused on how the agency managed
matters at the scene of shootings. Some officers reported, for example, that despite their wishes
to return to the police station for some peace and quiet, they were required to stay at the scene of
the shooting for quite some time as the press arrived and crowds gathered. Others, such as the
officer who witnessed a shouting-match between his attorney and the homicide supervisor
(described on page 51), felt that the level
l e ~ofl professionalism displayed by detectives fell short of
56
that befitting a major law enforcement investigation.
In a related vein, some officers (such as
in~estigation.~~

the SWAT team member mentioned on page 76 who was peeved with the detective who accused
him of dishonesty about how man)
many rounds he carried) complained that the detectives who
•

investigated their shootings were not sufficiently competent. Finally, other officers were not

pleased with how the agency notified their loved ones of the shooting.
shooting. Perhaps the most extreme
mishandling of a family notification occurred when the involved officer specifically requested
shooting. Instead
lnstead of following
following the officer's wishes, the
that his wife not be told of the shooting.
ofticer's house to pick up his wife and bring her to the
department sent a squad car to the officer's

scene. When the squad car delivered the wife to the scene, she was not allowed to visit
shooting scene.
some distance away.
away. After stewing in her juices for a while
with her husband, but had to wait S(lll1e
about how she was being treated, she demanded a ride back home.
home. When the officer found out
what had happened, he was quite upset.
upser

56

•

soinc hours after a shooting and
Another officer reported bring
bt'ing d'I bit
bl! upset when his captain called him some
ranted on
o n for several
4everal minutes about how tht'
thz pt")pfe
pcople managing the investigation were not
nnt doing their jobs right. The
officei becamc
negati\e nWl1ner.
manner.
officel
becam<: quite worried that the problciii\
probklll' afoot would affect him in a negative
56

95
95

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•

a

None of the
the miscues
miscues that the
the officers
officers complained
complained of during
during the directed interviews
interviews
appeared
appeared to
to be motivated by maliciousness,57
m a l i c i ~ u s n e s sbut
, ~ ~rather seemed to
to stem
stem from
from a lack of attention
by the agencies that employed the
the officers
officers to developing sound post-shooting procedures.
procedures.
Agencies can avoid errors
errors of the sorts
sorts described above by training their personnel about what

officers can experience in the immediate aftermath of shootings.
shootings. If supervisors,
supervisors, detectives,
detectives, and
and
officers
are taught that there is
is a strong possibility that officers
officers who shoot will be
other personnel are
particularly sensitive to the actions
actions of others
others in the wake of shootings,
shootings, they will be less
less likely to

officers, unnecessarily accuse officers of
front of officers,
engage in un-professional behavior in front
misfeasance,
misfeasance, ignore officers' legitimate requests, or take other actions that might perturb officers.
officers.

SWAT officer, the detective,
detective, and the 28
28 rounds in the 3D-round
30-round clip
clip
Finally, the story of the SWAT
suggests that agencies should ensure that detectives assigned to investigate officer-involved
•

shootings are familiar with the nuances of the equipment that officers carry and train the
shootings
detectives not to jump to conclusions
conclusions
detectives
for the investigation of officer-involved shootings
shootings comes
Another set of implications for
from the information about officers' reactions during
during shootings. Because officers so
so often
from
so trequently
frequently have imperfect recall about specific aspects
experience perceptual distortions and so
shootings (such as the number of rounds they fired), investigators must be aware that officers
of shootings
may not always be able to provide accurate information about what transpired. One implication

siniply take officers' accounts of what occurred during
of this is that investigators should not simply

57
57

•
a

coinylain that
tli<it one of the homicide detectives who interviewed him told him a
One officer did, however, complain
bald face lit:
lic about how long she had worked
workcd in
in the homicide unit. The officer helicved
believed that the detective was using
aboui the circumstances of the shooting that
tliilt she felt the officer was
the lie as a ploy to obtain information abOlll
thar lit'
froin tht'
thc detectives.
cletectives.
withholding from her. The officer reported that
he was hiding nothing from

96

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(

0

•

their shooting as
as infallible.
infallible. Rather,
Rather, they should take officers' accounts
accounts as
as a point of departure
departure for
for
the rest of the inquiry and work back and forth
forth between them and othe~
other evidence
evidence (e.g., bullet
trajectories and the location of shell casings) to develop the most accurate
accurate possible picture of
what occurred.
A second implication is the flip
flip of the first;
first; investigators
investigators should not immediately
conclude that officers are being dishonest if they state that they can not recall some aspect of the
event or report some information that is not consistent with other evidence.
evidence. Investigators should
realize that officers truly may not be able
able to recall things or may have sincere beliefs that the
inaccurate information they provided is correct. With such understanding in hand, investigators
who are faced with problematic statements from
fill in the holes or
from officers can then seek to fill

•
0

reconcile conflicting evidence through the investigative process.
A final implication comes from the most extreme form of inaccurate recall reported by
study officers:
officers: having no recollection of firing one's gun. That officers can shoot and not know it
suggests that investigators should check the weapons of all officers who were immediately

present when the shooting occurred.
occurred. Like everything else the investigators do, the reason for
doing so should be explained to all officers whose guns are inspected so that the officers who

fire do not feel
feel as if they are being accused of lying about their actions
reported that they did not fire
during the shooting. By checking the weapons of all officers who could reasonably have fired

and explaining why they are doing so, detectives can conduct thorough investigations without

putting officers off. In sum, being cognizant of what officers may experience during shootings

can help detectives conduct the thorough investigations that are necessary when the police shoot

•

citizens.
t kens
ci

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i

I

•

Future Research Needs

of
As the preceding list of implications indicates, the current study has yielded a good bit of
useful knowledge about officers' responses to involvement in shootings. One area where the
study is of limited utility, however, is on the crucial question of why officers respond as they do.

Although the study did develop substantial information on the correlates of the reactions that
officers experience during and after shootings, methodological limitations circumscribed its
capacity to yield firm conclusions about the determinants of responses. One type of limitation
lies in the measurement realm, where consideration of the validity and precision of some
indicators

findings might not adequately represent the true relationships in
raises the possibility that some findings
question. Take, for example,
example, the finding that fear for self and adrenal
adrenalin
during shootings
shootings
question.
in rushes during
•

distortions. The literature on the role that
are only weakly associated with perceptual distortions.
psychophysiological processes play in human perception during high stress situations suggests

stronger. It is possible that the weak observed
that the relationships should be substantially stronger.
officers' ability to accurately rate their
associations are a result (at least in part) of limitations in officers"
inentaliemotional and physiological states during shootings;
shootings; after all,
all, we have clear-cut evidence
mental/emotional
that other aspects of officers' perceptions are often less than pertkct.
pertect. Moreover, even if selftl:ar and the presence of elevated
ratings can produce valid information regarding feelings of tkar

drenalin levels,
levels. the simple yes/no
)es/no indicator used in the current study could be masking the
adrenalin
\tronger associations that more
niore precise self-rating scales (e.g..
(e.g . of
01 the Likert variety) would
stronger
disclose.
disclose.

•

11i th the present research where cmlsality
ciiiisal it?; is concerned is that none of
Another limitation \\ith

98
98

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0

•

relationships between officers'
officers’ reactions and the various
the models estimated to examine the relationships
. potential determinants of them accounted for the effects of other factors.
factors. ifhis
This limitation is
especially salient regarding what officers
officers experienced in the wake of their shootings,
shootings, where
analysis disclosed that most of the numerous significant correlates of officers'
officers’ reactions bore only
mild associations. Given the weakness of these associations, the introduction of even modest
controls could render the associations
associations non significant. In short,
short, because it is quite possible that

officers’ post-shooting reactions
the observed associations between the significant predictors and officers'
are spurious, the findings regarding these associations should be viewed with substantial caution.
Multivariate methods were not used to address the spuriousness issues in the current

few cases per predictor. With more than 30
research for the simple reason that there were too few
variables considered, the 113
1 13 shootings examined simply do not provide a sufficient number of
of

@

•

officers’ reactions to
cases to yield stable multivariate parameter estimates. Future research on officers'
shootings can address this limitation by 1) using data reduction techniques to decrease the

from larger
number of predictors without losing crucial information and 2) collecting data from
samples. By estimating the multivariate
multivariate models that these steps would permit, future
future research
samples.
increase the scope of knowledge regarding the determinants of officers'
officers‘ postcould substantially increase
develop better measures of factors
factors such as the
shooting adjustment. Future research should also develop
fear and adrenalin rushes that officers can experience while involved in shootings in order to
as they do
do during such events.
events. To conclude,
conclude,
enhance our comprehension of why officers react as
study yielded a substantial
substantial amount of information about police responses to
while the current study
further
officer-involved shootings. it is clear that additional research on the topic is needed to further

•

clarify our understanding of this important matter.
1

99
99

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

II

•
Ii

•

•

] 00
i00

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

A

•

REFERENCES

Adams, Ronald J., Thomas M. McTernan, and Charles Remsberg
Evanston, IL: Calibre
Calibre Press.
1980
1980 Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters. Evanston,
Artwohl,
Artwohl, Alexis and Loren W. Christensen.
1997
1997 Deadly Force Encounters: What Cops Need to Know to Mentally and Physically
Prepare for and Survive and Gunfight. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press.
Bettinger, Keith J.
J.
1983
November/December:
1983 Dreams related to post-shooting trauma. Police Marksman. NovemberDecember:
33-36.
Burris, William.
William.
1985
1985 Surviving
Surviving the aftermath: 'Post-shooting
'Post-shooting trauma' revisited. Police Marksman
May/June:31-33.
May/June:3 1-33.

•

e

Campbell,
Campbell, John Henry.
1992
Comparative Analysis of the Effects of Post-Shooting
Post-Shooting Trauma on the Special
1992 A Comparative
of Investigation. Unpublished Ph.D.
Ph.D. Dissertation.
Dissertation.
Agents of the Federal Bureau ofInvestigation.
Department of Educational Administration, Michigan State University.
Everly, George S.
S. and Jeffery T.
T. Mitchell.
1997
1997 Critical Incident Stress
Stress Management (CISM):
(CISM): A New Era and Standard
Standard of Cart:
Care in
in
Crisis Intervention.
Intervention. Ellicott City, MD: Chevron.
Chevron.
Geller, William A.
S. Scott.
A. and Richard S.
Know. Washington.
Washington, DC:
IIC: Police Executive Research Forum.
t.'orum.
1992 Deadly Force: What We Know.
Gersons, Berthold P.R.
P,R.
1989 Patterns of PTSD among police officers following
folloLcing shooting
shooting incidents: A two
1989
2. 247347dimensional model and treatment implications. Journal of Traumatic Stress. 2:
257.

H. Silvera.
T. and David
1)avid H.
Gilbert, Daniel T.
1996
1996 Overhelping.
3 15-324.
Overhelping. Journal
.lournal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70: 315-324.

•

A. Resick,
Resick. Susan Marhoefer-[
Marhoefer-I horak,
h orak, Catherine
Catherine K. Hutter.
Girelli, Steven A., Patricia A.
Cirelli,
Subjectike distress and violence during rape: Their
.I heir long-term effects on long-terlll
long-tcrm
1986 Subjective
fear. Violetice
fear.
Violence and Victims, 1:35-46.

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This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
e

Gist, Richard and Bernard Lubin.
1999
1999 Responses to Disaster:
Disaster: Psychological, Community, and Ecological Approaches. Ann
Arbor, MI. Braun-Brumfield.
Braun-Brumfield.

Richard, Bernard Lubin, and Bradley G. Redburn.
Redburn.
Gist, Richard,
1999
1999 Psychological, Community, and Ecological Perspective on Disaster Response. In
Gist, Richard and Bernard Lubin (eds.) Responses to Disaster: Psychological,
Community, and Ecological Approaches. Ann Arbor, MI. Braun-Brumfield.
Community,
Griffin, Michael G., Patricia A. Resick, and Mindy B. Mechanic.
1997
dissociation: Psychophysiological indicators.
indicators.
1997 Objective assessment of peritraumatic dissociation:
American Journal of Psychiatry, 154:1081-1088.
154: 1081-1088.
Grossman, David and Bruce Siddle
1999
R. Kutz (ed.), Encyclopedia of Violence,
1999 Psychological Effects of Combat. In Lester R.
Orlando, FL: Academic Press.
Peace, and Conflict, Volume 3. Orlando,
Higgens, E. Troy.
1987
1987 Self-discrepancy: A theory relating to self and affect. Psychological Review, 94: 3193 19340.
340.

•
0

Hill, Wayne R.
1984
1984 Police and post-killing trauma. Police Product News. September:57-69.
September57-69,

H. Range, Deirde Anglin, John Yarborough,
Yarborough. Kimberly Hardaway, Marie Russell, Jared
Hutson, H.
Strote,
Strote, Michael Canter, and Bennett Blum.
1998
1998 Suicide by cop. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 32:665-669.
S. Weiss, William E.
E. Schlenger, John A. Fairbank, B,
ByKathleen
Marmar, Charles R., Daniel S.
Jordan, Richard A. Kulka, and Richard L. Hough.
1994 Peritraumatic Dissociation and Posttraumatic Stress in Male Vietnam Theater
1994
15 1 : 902-907
Veterans. American Journal of Psychiatry, 151:
Nielson, Eric.
1981 Salt Lake City Police Department Deadly Force Policy Shooting and Post Shooting
1981
Reactions. Mimiographed.
Mimiographed.
Rosenthal, Robert and Lenore Jacobson.
1968 Pygmalion In the Classroom. New York:
1968
York: Holt
Holt. Rinehart, and Winston.
Winston.

•

Shaw, James H.
198 1 Post-shooting trauma.
trauma. Washington Law Enforcement Journal.
Journal. February:22-’4.
1981
February:22-~4 .

102
102

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
e

Solomon, Roger M.
M. and James H. Horn.
Horn.
Solomon,
1986 Post-shooting
Post-shooting traumatic reactions: A pilot study.
study. In James
James T.
T. Reese and Harvey A.
A.
1986
for Law Enforcement Officers. Washington,
Goldstein (eds.) Psychological Services for
DC: U.S. Government
Government Printing Office.
Snibbe.
Stratton, John G., David Parker and John R. Snibbe.
1984
1984 Post-traumatic
Post-traumatic stress:
stress: Study of police officers involved in shootings. Psychological
Reports
Reports 55:127-131.
55: 127-13 1.
Weiss,
Weiss, Daniel S.,
S., Charles
Charles R Marmar,
Marmar, Thomas J.
J. Metzler,
Metzler. and Heidi M.
M. Ronfeldt
1995
1995 Predicting Symptomatic
Symptomatic Distress in Emergency
Emergency Services Personnel.
Personnel. Journal
Journal of
Consulting Psychology, 66:
66: 361-368.
Consulting

•

•

103
103

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

/

I

•
TABLE 1. Percent of Officers Experiencing Specific Thoughts and Feelings at any Point
During Shooting Incidents Across Different Studies a
Thought/Feeling
Thought/Feeling
Current Study

Nielson

37%
37%
137%

N/M
NIM

NIM
I N/M
"

Fear for Self

41%

20%

43%.
43%

N/M

Fear for Others

60%

40%

29%

N/M

Need to Survive
Survive

30%
30%

22%

N/M
NIM

N/M

Adrenalin Rush

55%
55%

46%

N/M
NIM

N/M

Intrusive Thoughts

14%
14%

N/M
NIM

N/M
NfM

36%
36%

Other
a N/M =
= Not Measured

33%

N/M
NIM

N/M
NIM

N/M
NIM

~

~

TABLE 2. Officers' Thoughts and Feelings at Two Different
Times During 113
113 Shooting Incidents
Prior to Firing

Disbelief
Disbelief
Fear for Self
Fear for Others
Need to Survive
Survive

Upon Firing

Percent

Thought,/Feeling
Thought/Feeling

I

I
I
I

32%
35%
54%
27%

Percent

1
I
I
I

34%
34O/o
30%

49'10
49%
23%
23O'O
~~

•

Artwohland
Artwohl
and
Christensen

42%
142%

Disbelief
I Disbelief
Disbelief

•

Campbell

Adrenalin Rush

44%

46%
46°10

Intrusive Thoughts

10%
10%

9"/o
9%

Other

30%

30%

104

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and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

~~~

1

I

•

__

Experienced Specific Perceptual
TABLE 3. Percent of Shootings in Which Officers Experienced
Distortions at any Point Across Different Studies a
Current
Study

Distortion

Campbell

Solomon
Solomon
and Horn

Neilsen

ArtwohI
and
Artwohland
Christensen

Tunnel Vison

51%
51%

44%

37%

43%

82%

Visual Detail

56%
5 6Yo

N/M
NIM

18%
18%

NIM
N/M

65%

Diminished
Sound

82%

42%

51%

27%

88%

Intensified Sound

20%

N/M
NIM

18%
18%

N/M
NIM

17%
17%

Slow motion

56%

34%

67%

64%

63%

Fast Motion

23%

NIM
N/M

15%
15%

N/M
NIM

17%
17%

Other Distortion

13%

NIM
N/M

NIM
N/M

NIM
N/M

UNK

aN/M =Not Measured. UNK = Unknown, which indicates that the response was measured in some fashion, but
that the nature of the item lIsed does not allow for direct translation into the specific response in the current study.

•

TABLE 4. Perceptual Distortions at Two Different Times
Times During 113
Shooting Incidents
Prior to Firing

Percent

Distortion
Tunnel Vision

1

I
Both Visual Distortiuns
L)istortiuns I
Auditory Blunting
I
Auditory Acuity
Acuit!
I
Both Aural Distortiuns
Distorti~~ns 1
Heightened Visual Detail

Upon Firing

Percent

I

31%

I
I
I
1
I

37%
10%
10%
42%
10%
10%
0%

~

~

35%
35%
11%
11%
70%
5%
5%
9%
~

~~

Slow Motion

43%

40%

Fast Motion

12%
12%

17%
17%

0%

2%

Both Time Distllrtiol1s
Distortions

•

27%

105
lOS

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

TABLE 4. Perceptual Distortions at Two Different Times During 113
Shooting Incidents
Prior to Firing

Other
Other

I

Upon Firing

I

6%
6%

9%
9%

~

~

5. Distributions
Distributions of Three
Three Distortion
Distortion Scale
Scale Scores
Scores for
for 113
113 Police
Police Shootings
Shootings
Table 5.
Prior to Firing

-

•
1

Upon Firing

Score

Percent ofCases
of Cases

of Cases
Percent ofCases

0

12%
12%

6%
6%

5%
5 yo

1

18%
18%

18%
18%

6%

2

33%

19%
19%

6%

3

31%

43%

11%
11%

4

5%
5 yo

11%
11%

16%
16%

5

1%
1Yo

4%

17%

6

0

0

29%

7

0

0

6%
6Yo

8

0

0

qf C'ases
Percent o.fCases

3%
3 YO
~~

•

Overall
Overall

~~

9

0

0

0

10

0

0

1%
1Yo

IO6
106

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
I

II
Table 6.
6. Zero-Order Correlations
Correlations Between 12 Specific Perceptual Distortions During 113
Shooting Incidents
xl

•

.~

x2

x3
s3

x5

x4

x6

x7

x8

x9

x10
xlO

xxII
ll

Tunnel Vision Prior

_---

Visual Detail Prior

-.38

----

Loud Sound
Sound Prior

-.21
-.21

.23

----

Reduced Sound Prior

.21
.21

.03
.03

-.28
-.28

Slow Motion Prior

.22

.14
.I4

-.)
- . I 1)

.28
.28

----

Fast
Fast Motion Prior

.02
.02

-.03
-.03

.24

-.05

-.33
-.33

--_-

Tunnel
Tunnel Vision At

SO
.50

-.I9
-.19

-.0
-.OlI

.os
.08

-.02

.09
.09

----

Visual
Visual Detail
Detail At

-.IO
-.10

.6I
.61

.06

.IO
.10

.IO
.10

-.02

-.27

----

Loud
Loud Sound
Sound At

.10
.10

-.oo
-.00

.I4
.14

.09

.03
.03

.25

-.04

.06
.06

----

Reduced
Reduced Sound
Sound At
At

.09
.09

.07

-.04
-.04

.23
.23

.03
.03

-.06
-.06

.29

.IO
.10

-.I7
-.17

Slow Motion At
Slow

-.o I1
-.0

.IS
.18

-.04

.24

.46

.01
.01

.23

.IO
.10

-.07

.32

----

Fast
Fast Motion At

. I I1
.1

.05
.05

.30
.30

-.os
-.08

-.05

.44

-.05

.02

.28

-.I8
-.18

-.31

x12
xl2

----

----

----

107
107

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

A

•

Table 7: Multidimensional Scaling Coordinates for Distortion Co-occurrence

Dimension
Dimension 1I

Distortion
Distortion

.10
.10

Prior
Prior Tunnel
Tunnel Vision
Prior
Prior Visual Detail

I

Dimension 2

,

1.44
1.44

I

-.37
-27
~

•

•

~

-1.61
-1.61
~~

Prior
Prior Auditory
Auditory Amplification

1.34
1.34

-.35

Prior
Prior Auditory
Auditory Attenuation
Attenuation

-.83
-.83

.41
.41

Prior Slow
Slow Motion
Motion

-.89
-.89

.12

Motion
Prior Fast Motion

1.37

-.05

Vision At
Tunnel Vision

.07
.07

1.42

Visual Detail At

-.35
-35

-1.41

Amplification At
Auditory Amplification

1.26
1.26

-.16

Attenuation At
Auditory Attenuation

-2.30

.05

Slow Motion
Motion At
Slow

-.79

.28

Fast Motion
Motion At

1.38
1.38

-.14

108

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

e
(i

•

•
109
109
This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Table 8. Number of Shots Fired by Subject Officers and Number of Shots They Thought They Had Fired in 113 Shootings
N
N ofShots
of Shots
Officers
Officers
kt/l(fl~l' Firer!

N of
of Cases
Cases in
itz
Which
Wlticli Officers
Officers
Firer! GiI'eIl
Number of
Shots

N ofCases
uf Cuses in
Which
Which Officers'
Officers '
Recall \1U1
Correct

N oofCases
f Cases in
Which
Officers
Which 0fficei.s
RcmllC!d (/
Range That
Included Actual
N ojShots

ofCases
N of
Cases in
Which Officers
Officers
Which
Thought They
Fired Fewer
Rounds

oJCases
in
NN qf
Cuses in
qfficers
Which Officers
had no
no Clue how
how
had
Many Rounds
Rounds
Mtrnv
The?,
They Fired
Fired

N ooJCases
f Cases in
Which Officers
q[ficers
Which
Thought They
Fired More
Fired
Rounds
Roirnds

1

33

32

0

1

0

I

0

2

16

14

0

1

0

I

11

3

14

12

0

1

1

0

4

18

11

0

4

11

2

5

7

2

1

4

0

6

8

3

1

2

1

7

3

1

0

2

0

8

3

0

0

2

9

3

1

1

1

13

1

0

0

0

14

1

0

0

1

15

1

0

0

0

0

11

16

1

0

0

1

0

0

18

1

0

0

1

0

0

28

2

0

0

0

0

2

41

1

0

0

0

0

11

Total Cases

113

76

3

21

4

I

0
11

I

-

110
110
This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

0

I

:
1

0

0

0

0

1

0

I

I

0

9

•

Table 9.
9. Thoughts/Feelings
ThoughtdFeelings Experienced
Experienced at
at Any Point
Point Following Shooting
Shooting
Table

Percent

Thought/Fee1inq
Thought/Feeling

•

1044 Cases
Cases Fully
Fully Measured

All 113 Cases

Percent

Elation

129%
29%

31%

Sadness
Sadness

26%

26%

Numbness
Numbness

20%
20%

21%
21%

Recurrent Thoughts

83%
83%

84%
84%

Anxiety

40%

43%

Guilt

12%
12%

13%
13%

Nightmares

18%
18%

19%
19%

Fear for Safety

18%
18%

18%
18%

Fear of Legal/ Administrative
Administrative
Fear
Problems

34%
34%

3 7%
37%

Any Other Thought or
Any
Feeling
Feeling

42%

41%

~~

Experienced at Any Point Following Shooting
Table 10. Physical Responses Experienced
All 113
113 Cases

Phvsical
Physical Response

•

I

104 Cases Fully Measured
104
~

Percent

Percent

Nausea

4%

4%

Appetite Loss

17%

17%

Headache

7%

7%

Fatigue

46%

4-'0/
_L °

Crying

124%
24%

24~/o

Trouble
Trouhle Sleeping

148%
48%

50%

I19%
9%

I19C\o
99;

Other Physical

111

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

•

Thoughts/Feelings
TABLE 11. Percent of Cases In Which Officers Experienced Specific ThoughtslFeelings
at Any Point After Shooting Incidents, Across Different Studies a
Thought/Fed
Thounht/Fed
ing

Current
Study

Solomon
and Horn C

CampbeU
Campbell b

Neilsen d“

Gersons ‘‘
Gersons"

N/M

N/M

N/M

I N/M

N/M

I N/M

20%
120%

I UNK
I N/M

I N/M

43%
143%

N/M

I N/M

Recurrent
thoughts

83%

23%

44%
44%

58%

76%

Anxiety

40%
40%

25%

UNK

33%
33%

I N/M

37%
137%

N/M

19%
119%

134%
34%

N/M
N/M

I UNK
UNK

UNK

N/M

N/M

Elation

29%

Sadness

26%
126%

Numbness

Guilt

12%
112%

Nightmares

I 18%
18%

I”N/M
1 UNK

I

I

1

Fear for
Safety

18%
18%

Fear of
Legal!Admin
LegaVAdmin
. Problems

34%

N/M
N/M

N/M

N/M

N/M

Any
Any Other
Thought
Thought or
Feeling
Feeling

42%

UNE;
UNK

UNK

UNK

UNK

N/M

N/M

N/M = Not Measured. UNK = Unknown,
CJnknown, which
\thich mdlcates
indicates that the response was measured in some fashion. but
'N/M
itein used does not allo""
allou for direct translation into the specific
specific response in the current study
stud)
that the nature of the item
Campbell’s data reflect reactions during the
011
b Campbell's
tht: first week following shootings. The figures presented are based 011
the N of 167 that Campbell stated he used to percentage responses, although the raw frequencies and percentages he
reports do not always match. Campbell used a4 single item that asked agents whether they experienced
“sadness/crying/depression.” Sixteen percent (16%)
( 16%) of the agents
agents responded affirmatively to this item. Given tht:
the
"sadness/crying/depression."
io determine
determine how many of these agents
agents experienced sadness.
sadness.
nature of the item, however, it is not possible 10
Horn’s data apparently rt:flect
reflect officers'
officers’ responses at any point following shootings. The figures
r Solomon and Horn's
espondents who rated the various items at a level of three or higher
highei on
reported in the table reflect the percentage of Irespondents
\vas designed
dezigned to tap the degree to which the various
varioiis responses "disrupted"
“disrupted” the
a Likert scale with a range of 1-5 that was
officer’s life.
officer's
LI
shootings.
d Nielsen’s
Nielsen's data reflect reactions during the tirst week following shootings.
Gersons’s data apparently reflect officers'
officers‘ tesponses
lie
, Gersons's
responses at any point in time following shootings. The guilt item hL'
wed asked officers whether they experienced
exper ienced "Guilt
Guilt about surviving:'
surviving.“
lIsed

•

112
112

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

Responses
Table 12. Percent of Cases in Which Officers Experienced Particular Physical Responses
~tudies a
at Any Point After Shooting Incidents, Across Different Studies
Physical
Phvsical
Response
ResDonse

Current
Study

•

’ I Gersons
Gersons
~~

Nielsen d

C

Nausea

4%

1%
1%

N/M
N
M

92%

N/M
N
M

Appetite
Loss

17%

N/M
NJM

N/M

N/M

N/M
NIM

Headache

7%

5%
5%

N/M

25%
125%

N/M

Fatigue

46%
146%

24%
24%

N/M

14%
114%

N/M

Crying

24%

UNK

N/M

N/M

1M

Trouble
Sleeping

48%
48%

32%

46%

27%

43%

I

•

I

I Solomon
I and Horn I

Campbell h
C’umpbell

I

-1
I

<'
“

I

LINK
UNK
NIM
UNK
N/M
19%
UNK
Other
Physical
m nn,, whIch
which indicates
in some fashIOn.
fashion. but
aN/M
mdlcates that the response was measured III
’N/M =
= Not Measured. UNK =
= Unknown,
Unk OM
that the nature of the item used does not
n : allow for direct translation into the specific response in the current study.
presented are based on
b Campbell's
Campbell’s data reflect reactions during
d ing the first week following shootings. The figures presented
+h- ’hl - K 117 +I.-+
P--*hall
- t O t P A hP
PA
rncnnncnc
Q l t h n n a m h thn ir u- i vx ,v frequencies
f b n i * c - n p ; n c I n A nnrpnntsonc h e
the
percentages
iuai Campbell
b a l l l p G 1 1 stated
J L c I t L u he Llsed to percentage responses, although the raw
iiryubiirir~and
cuiu y
v i v v x s c u s - ~ he
LIIC N
I Y of
V I 167
1 w 1 that
used a single item that asked agents whether they experienced
reports do not always match.
match. Campbell med
"sadness/crying/depression."
“sadness/crying/depression.” Sixteen percent (16%)
( 16%) of the agents
agents responded affirmatively to this item. Given the
nature of the item, however, it is not possible to determine how many of these agents cried. In a related vein.
Campbell did include an "other"
“other” physical
phLsical response category in his study. Because the specific response categories
he used are different from
from those in the current study, however, his "other"
“other” category is not directly comparable to the
one used in the current study.
C Solomon and Horn's
Horn’s data apparently
apparentlj reflect officers'
officers’ responses
responses at any point following shootings. The figure
figure
reported for "trouble
“trouble sleeping"
sleeping” is the percentage of respondents who rated "sleep
“sleep disturbances"
disturbances” at a level of three or
higher on a Likert scale with a range of 1-:;
that was designed to tap the degree
I -i
degree to which sleep
sleep disturbances
"disrupted"
“disrupted” the officer's
officer’s life.
life.
d Nielsen's
Nielsen’s data reflect reactions
reactions during the
[he first
first week following shootings.
shootings. The figures for the response category
"Nausea"
”Nausea” are based on an item that asked officers whether they had experienced "NausealUpset
“NauseaAJpset Stomach."
Stomach.” Nielsen
N ielsen
reported two sets of figures
figures on post-shooting fatigue;
fatigue; one that he identifies as
as a "physical
“physical symptom"
symptom” and one that he
identifies as an "emotional
Tlie 14% figure in the table is what he reported under the physical symptom
“emotional symptom'-·
symptom .* The
heading (he reported that officers
officers experienced emotional fatigue in 25% of the cases). Nielsen did include an
"other"
i n his.;tudy.
his .tudj. Because the specific response categories he used are different from
“other” physical response category in
those in the current study,
however.
his
"lither"
study,
--other“category is
is not directly comparable
comparable to the one used in the current
curl ent
study.
\tiid)
< Gersons's
(iersons’s data apparently
apparently reflect otlilL'rs'
otticcrs’ responses at any point in time following shootings. The 43% reported
for
tor "trouble
“trouble sleeping"
sleeping” is the percentage
percent‘ige 01
D I respondents who reported experiencing
experiencing "sleep
“sleep disturbances."
disturbances.”
LLL

I

t n nnrPPnt-nn

UJLU I W ~

L

B

~

L

~

L ~ L ~ UJ ~~ ~W

~

~ LLIIIIWUSII
J U J ,

]113
13

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

L Z L ~

/
I

•

Table 13.
13. Percent
Percent of Cases in
in Which Officers
Officers Experienced
Experienced Particular
Particular Thoughts
Thoughts or
or
Table
Feelings During Four Post-Shooting
Post-Shooting Time Periods
Periods
Feelings
Thouaht/Feeling
ThoughtlFeeling

Week
First Week
(N=I13)
(N=l13)

Within Three
Months (N= 111)

After Three
Months (N=105)

Elation

126%
26%

19%
119%

11%

5%

Sadness
Sadness

18%
118%

17%
117%

5%
5%

5%
5 yo

Numbness

118%
18%

7%
17%

4%
4%

3%
3%

I 82%
82%

74%
174%

52%
52%

3 7%
37%

37%
37%

28%
28%

13%
13%

110%
10%

Recurrent
thoughts
thoughts
Anxiety

•

Hours
First 24 Hours
(N=l12)
(N=112)

Guilt

110%
10%

15%
5%

6%
6%

2%
2%

Nightmares
Nightmares

113%
13%

13%
113%

10%
10%

6%
6%

for Safety
Fear for

1 9%
9%

10%
110%

9%
9%

8%
8%

Fear of Legal
Fear
4dministrative
Administrative
Problems
Problems

31%
31%

25%
25%

19%
19%

11%
11%

Any Other
Any
rhought or
Thought
Feeling
Feeling

33%
33%

23Yo
23%

20%

14%
14%

Table 14.
14. Percent
Percent of Cases in Which Officers
Officers Experienced
Experienced Particular Physical Responses
Responses
Table
During Four Post-Shooting Time Periods
~~

•

Phvsical
Physical
ResDonse
Response

First 24 Hours
(N=l12)
(N=112)

Firs!
First Week
Week
(N=l13)
(N=113)

Within Three
Three
Within
Months
Months (N=111)
(N=l 1 1)

A$er Three
Three
After
Months (N=105)
(N=105)

Nausea

4%
4%

4%
4%

0%
0%

0%
0%

Appetite Loss

16%
16%

8%
8Yo

2%

1 Yo
1%

I leadache
Headache

6%
6%

4%
4%

1%
1 Yo

1 Yo
1%

I‘atigue
Fatigue

39%
39%

26%
26%

7%

5%
5%

:‘rying
Crying

17%

7yo
7%

2%
2 YO

2%

I’rouble
I'rouble
<leeping
Sleeping

46%
46%

36%
36%

16%
16%

11%
11%

114

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
e

Responses
Table 14. Percent of Cases in Which Officers Experienced Particular Physical Responses
During Four Post-Shooting Time Periods
Other Physical

18%
118%

11%
111
%

12%
112%

6%
16%

Frequencies of Post-Shooting Response Scale Scores for Four Time Periods
Table 15. Frequencies

•

•

Scale
Scule Score

First 24 Hours
(N=1l2)
(N=l12)

First Week
Week
(N=I13)
(N=l13)

0

23

42
42

I 6464

66
166

1

20

17
17

20
120

I 1199

2

15
15

14
14

10
10

10
10

3

16
16

11
11

4

4

4

12

13

1 66

3

5

7

6

1 22

2
12

66

I 88

6

4

0

7

1

2

1 00

1 00

8

7

00

1

1

9

2

1

0

l 0o

10
10

0

0D

l 0o

l 0o

11
II

0

03

0

0

12
12

1

03

0

13
13

0

11

l 0o

Mean
Mean

2.88
2.88

2.05

Within
After Three
Within Three
Three
Afer
Three
Months (N=III)
05)
Monrhs
(N=l11) Months (N=1
(N=l05)

1 06

115
115

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

l 0o
l 0o
.77

(

•

Figure 1.
1. Percent
Percent of
of 113
113 Cases
Cases in
in Which
Which Officers
Officers
Figure
to Firing
Firing
ExperiencedVisual
Visual Distortions
Distortions Prior
Prior to
Experienced
Both Distortions
Distortions 10%
IC
Both
No
No Distortion
Distortion 22%
22%

Detail 37%
37
Increased
-_Increased Detail
-

Tunnel
31%
Tunnel Vision
Vision 31%

•

Figure 2.
2. Percent of 113
113 Cases in
in Which Officers
Officers
Figure
Distortions While Firing
Firing
ExperienIced Visua
Experienced
VisualI Distortions
Both Dostortions 11
11 %
Distortion 27%
No Distortion

Increased Detail 35%

Tunnel Vision
Vision 27%
27%
Tunnel

•

L
116

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

I

•

Figure 3.
3. Percent
Percent of 113
113 Cases
Cases in
in Which
Which Officers
Officers
Figure
Experienced Auditory Distortions
Distortions Prior to Firing
Firing
Experienced
Increased Sound 10'1'0

No
No Distortion
Distortion 49%

Reduced Sound 42%

*•

Figure 4.
4. Percent
Percent of 113
113 Cases in
in Which Officers
Officers
Figure
Experienced Auditory Distortions
Distortions While Firing
Firing
Experienced
Both Distortions 8%
No Distortion 17%
17%

Increased Sound 5%

Reduced Sound 70%

•

117

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

Figure
Figure 5.
5. Percent
Percent of 113
1I 3 Cases in
in Which
Which Officers
Officers

Experienced Time
Time Distortions
Distortions Prior to Firing
Firing
Experienced
Fast Motion
Motion 12%
12%

No
4 0
No Distortion 44%
-

Motion 43%
43%
Slow Motion

•

Figure 6.
6. Percent
Percent of 113
113 Cases in
in Which Officers
Officers
Figure
Experienced
Experienced Time Distortions
Distortions While Firing
Firing
Both
Both Distortions 2%
Fast Motion
Motion 17%
17%

No Distortion 42%

Slow Motion 40%

•

118

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

•

Figure 7: Scaterplot of Multidimensional Scaling of Perceptual Distortions

N

t:

o

(/)

c:
(1)

E CI

Dimension 1

119

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

•

•

•

Figure 8:
8: Percent
Percent of
of Cases
Cases With
With Given
Given Post-Shooting
Post-Shooting Scale
Scale Scores
Scores for
for Four
Four Tim~
'rim?Periods
Periods
Figure
70
70

60
60

50

v)
CIl

40 j--.,-...........""±\.,~;......,...-"-~~~~-+:-::
~ 40
co

-+--tFirst
First Day
Day (N=112)
(N=lI2)

rc
0

-._
--f First Week (N=113)
(N=l13)

~

u

()

o
+
.....
C
t:

~~

~~

Prior to
to Three Months
Months (N=111)
( N = l I 1)

al
ell

2
30
~
30
Q)

After Three Months
Months (N=105)
(N=lO5)

ell

a
a..

-~

20
20

10

0
o
0o

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Scales Scores

120

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

10

11
11

12

1133

~

~

~

I

*•

DEADLY FORCE
FORCE QUESTIONNAIRE

PARTII
PART
1.
shooting __/_
1. Date of
ofshooting
/ _/__
/
mo day
day yr
mo
2.
2. Approximate
Approximate time
time of shooting
shooting (military ))

_

3.
3. Your age (in years) at time of shooting
shooting _ _

Ii

4.
4. Sex:(check one)
one) Male _ _,,Female_
Female _
5.
5. Race/ethnicity:(check
Race/ethnicity:(check one) White _ _,,Black __,,Hispanic _'_,
’
, Asian _ _,,Other__
Other
6.
6 . Are you a military veteran?
veteran? Yes__,
Yes
,No__
No
If"yes,"
If “yes.” do you have combat experience?
experience? Yes__,
Yes
,No__
No7.
7. Years and months as a police officer at time of shooting
shooting (e.g.,
(e.g., 10
10 years, 2 moths)_
moths) _/_
/ _
yrs mos
8. Rank at time of shooting (e.g., officer, sergeant, lieutenant):
_

•

9.
9. Type
Type of law enforcement
enforcement agency you worked for at time of shooting: (Check one)
one)

Municipal
__._Municipal
_ _County
County
State
Federal
_ _Other
Other (e.g., school district, transit, etc.)

_

(Please specify)

10. Had you worked for a different law enforcement agency prior to this shooting?
10.
shooting?
Yes

.N
o
No

1 1. How many incidents have you been involved in where you fired shots?
11.
shots?_ _
12. How many incidents where other officers, but not you, fired shots?
shots?_ _

•

13.
13. How many incidents have you been involved in where you believe you could have legally fired
sliots.
shots. but you did not fire?
fire?_ _

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

1

•

14.
for: (Check one)
14. Type
Type of law enforcement agency
agency you currently work for:
_ _Municipal
MuniciDal
_ _County
County
State
State
Federal
_ _Other
Other (e.g.,
(e.g., school district,
district, transit, etc.)

i(

_

(Please specify)
specify)
_ _No
No longer in law enforcement

15.
15. Current rank (e.g.,
(e.g., officer,
officer, sergeant,
sergeant, lieutenant):
lieutenant):

_

16.
16. Activity/assignment at time of shooting:
shooting: (Check one)
General
General Patrol
Patrol
Traffic
Traffic Patrol
Patrol

•

_ _ Special
Special Patrol
Patrol (e.g.,
(e.g., crime suppression,
suppression, anti-gang, etc.)

Detective; search warrant service
Detective;
Detective; arrest warrant service or other apprehension
_ _ Detective;
SWAT
_
SWAT
(Please specify operation type; e.g, hostage, warrant service,
service. etc)
(Please
Undercover
Undercover
_ _ Offduty
Off duty
_ _ Other;
Other; please specify

_

17.
17. Were you married at the time of the shooting? Yes- -,,No
No - If "yes."
“yes.” were you separated?
separated? Yes _ _ , No_
No- _
Y

If "no"
“no“ were you divorced?
divorced? Yes - -, No- 7

•

18.
18. Ifmarried
If married at time of shooting, are you now married to the same person? Yes- -,,No
No-- -

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

2

•

19.
19. Were civilians who were not suspects (i.e., victims, bystanders, etc.) present at the scene of

shooting? Yes__,
Yes-,
No
“yes,” how many? _ _
the shooting?
No__
If "yes,"
20.
20. Were other law enforcement officers
officers present at the time you fired? (check all that apply)
_ _No,
No, I was alone
_ _Yes,
Yes, other officers from
from my agency were present
_ _Yes,
Yes, officers from other agencies were present
21. If you were not alone, how many other officers from your own agency were present? _ _,,
how many officers from other agencies? _ _
22.
22. If other officers from your agency were present, how many of them fired
fired rounds during this
incident?
23. If
If officers from other agencies were present, how many of them fired rounds during this
23.

•
a

incident?
incident?24. How many suspects were present during the shooting incident?_
incident? _

(If more than three suspects, please ask the interviewer for an “Additional
"Additional Suspect”
Suspect" sheet to be
used for the next item.)
25. This item refers to the weapons possessed by suspect(s) (check all that apply)
SusDect #1 was armed with:
Suspect

I Suspect #2 was armed with:

_ _ Blunt Object (e.g.,Bat/Club)

_ _ Blunt 0
Object
bject

__Blunt
Blunt Object

_ _ Edged weapon (e.g, Knife)

_ _Edged
Edged Weapon

__Edged
Edged Weapon

_ _ Handgun

Handgun

__ Shotgun
-

•

Suspect #3 was armed with:
I SusDect

__Handgun
Handgun

_ _Shotgun
Shotgun

__Shotgun
Shotgun

Rifle

Rifle

Rifle

Other

Other

Other

(specify)
Unarmed

(specify)
Unarmed

I -

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

1 -

t(specify)
specify)
Unarmed

•

3

26. If
If any
any suspect possessed
possessed a firearm, did
did suspect(s) fire at
at you?
you? Yes-,
Yes_ _, No
No_ _,,UnknownUnknown__
26.
If yes, how many total rounds were fired at you?
you?_ _
If

,No-,Unknown
27. If
If any suspect possessed
possessed a firearm, did suspectis)
suspect(s) fire at other officers Yes
Yes_ _,No_,Unknown__
If yes, how many total rounds were fired at other officers?
officers?_ _
If
If any suspect possessed a firearm, did suspect(s) fire at any citizens?
28. If
Yes_ _,No_
unknownYes
,No _,UnknoWll__
?

If yes, how many total rounds were fired at other citizens?citizens?
If

29. Approximately how many minutes elapsed between the time you arrived at the shooting
location and the time you fired your first round? (less than one minute =1)- 30. Total number of
of rounds you fired during this incident

_

fire at?
at?_ _
331.
1. How many suspects did you fire
•

gunfire?_ _
32. How many suspects did you hit with gunfire?

33. How many suspects were struck by rounds fired by other officers?_
officers? _
34.
34. The most serious wounds suffered by suspect
susDect #1
#1 were:
Fatal
_ _Serious
Serious (i.e.,
&e., required hospitalization)
hospitalization)
Minor
35.
35. The
The most serious
serious wounds suffered
suffered by
by suspect #2
#2 were:
were:

-FatalFatal
__Serious
Serious (i.e.,
(Le., required hospitalization)
hospitalization)
Minor

•

36.
36. The
The most
most serious
serious wounds
wounds suffered
suffered by
by suspect
suspect #3
#3 were:
were:
Fatal
Fatal

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been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•
0

_ _Serious
Serious (i.e.,
(i .e.,required hospitalization)
hospitalization)

4

Minor
37.
37. Did you provide first aid to any
any suspect(s)?
suspect(s)? Yes__,
Yes
,No_
No _..
38.
38. Did other officers
officers provide first
first aid to any suspect(s)? Yes_
Yes _, No__
No-9

39.
No _ If yes, were you hospitalized for
for
39. Were you injured during
during the shooting
shooting incident?
incident? Yes_
Yes _,,No_
I/

II

treatment?
treatment? Yes_
Yes _,,No_
No _
40. Did anyone other than suspect(s)
fatal wounds? Yes_
suspect(s) suffer any fatal
Yes _,,No_
No _
If yes, who? (Check all that apply)
Citizen _
apply) Police officer_
officer _,,Citizen_
41. Did anyone other than self or suspect(s)
suspect(s) suffer any non-fatal wounds? Yes- -,,No- If yes, who? (Check all that apply)
apply) Police
Police officer_
officer _,,Citizen_
Citizen _
42. Had you had any prior personal contact with the suspect(s) you shot? Yes_
No_ _
Yes _,,No

•
e

(e.g., from
from prior arrest)
arrest)If yes, please describe (e.g.,
experienced during the incident, prior to firing
firinn first shot:
thoughVfeeling you experienced
43. Check each thought/feeling
Disbelief that the incident was happening
__ Disbelief
Fear for self
Fear for others
__ Feeling that "I
"I must survive"
__ Rush of strength or adrenalin

Thoughts about irrelevant matters (e.g.,
__Thoughts
(e.g., family, friends, past experiences, etc.)
-OtherOther

- - - (Please
- - -describe)
---------

44. Check each perceptual distortion you experienced prior to firing your first shot:

•
@

Visual Distortion:

-Tunnel
Tunnel vision

Heightened detail
_ _Heightened

Auditory Distortion:

-Diminished
Diminished sound

Intensified sound
_ _Intensified

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

Time Distortion:

Slow motion

Other Distortions:

-Fast Fast motion
_

5

(Please describe)
45. Check each thoughtlfeeling
thought/feeling you experienced upon or after firing first shot:
45.
Disbelief that the incident was happening
Disbelief

Fear for self
Fear for others (e.g., fellow officers, bystanders, etc.)
_ _ Feeling that AI must survive@
survive@
_ _ Rush of
of strength or adrenalin
__Thoughts
family, friends, past experiences, etc.)
Thoughts about irrelevant matters (e.g., family,

Other-~------------(Please describe)

•
0

46.
46. Check each perceptual distortion you experienced upon or after firing
firing your
vour first shot:
Visual Distortions:
Auditory Distortions:
Time Distortions:

Tunnel vision
-Tunnel

__Heightened
Heightened detail

Diminished sound
_ _Slow
Slow motion

Intensified
Intensified sound
Fast motion

Other Distortions:
- - - (Please
- - -describe)
--------describe)
47. Check all physical responses you experienced within the first
first 24 hours after the shooting:
shooting:
Nausea
__Loss
Loss of appetite
Headaches
-Headaches
__Fatigue
Fatigue
__Crying
-Crying
•

0

Trouble falling/staying
falling/staying asleep
asleep
-__Trouble
-OtherOther - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

(Please describe)

•

6
48. Check all
all thoughts/feelings you experienced within the first 24 hours after the shooting:
Elation
Sadness
Sadness
Numbness
Recurrent thoughts about the shooting
Fear for safety
__Fear
Fear oflegal
of legal and/or administrative problems
__Anxiety
Anxiety
Guilt

•

__Nightmares
N i ght mare s

-OtherOther

_
(Please describe)

49.
49. Check all
all physical responses you experienced between the second and seventh days after the

shooting (i.e., within the first week, but after the first day) :
shooting
Nausea

-Loss
__Loss
of appetite
Headaches

-Fatigue
__Fatigue
__Crying
-Crying
Trouble falling/staying
falling/staying asleep
__Trouble

•

-OtherOther

- - -(Please
- - -describe)
---------(Please describe)

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

77
50. Check
Check all
all thoughts/feelings
thoughts/feelings you
you experienced
experienced between
between the
the second
second and
and seventh
seventh daw
days after
after the
the
50.
shooting (Le.,
(i.e., within
within the
the first
first week,
week, but
but after
after the
the first
first day)
day) ::
shooting
Elation
Elation

Sadness
Numbness
_ _Recurrent
Recurrent thoughts about the shooting
Fear for safety
Fear of
oflegal
legal and/or administrative problems

•

_ _Anxiety
Anxiety

Guilt
Nightmares
Other
- - -(Please
- - -describe)
---------51.
5 1. Check all
all physical responses
responses you experienced between the eighth day and third month following
following
the shooting (i.e., within the first three months, but after the first
first week):
week):
Nausea
_ _Loss
Loss of appetite
appetite
Headaches
_ _Fatigue
Fatigue
_
_Crying
-Crying

•

e -

__Trouble
Trouble falling/staying
falling/staying asleep
asleep
Other
Other- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

i

l/

•

(Please
(Please describe)

8
52.
day and third month following
52. Check all thoughts/feelings you experienced between the eighth dav
the shooting (i.e.,
(i.e.. within the first
first three month~,
month?, but after the first week):
Elation
Sadness
Numbness
_ _Recurrent
Recurrent thoughts about the shooting
_ _Fear
Fear for safety
_ _Fear
Fear of legal and/or administrative problems
_ _Anxiety
Anxiety

•

Guilt
_ _Nightmares
Nightmares
Other

- - -(Please
- - -describe)
----------

53. Check all
all physical responses
responses you experienced after the third month following the shooting:
53.
Nausea

Loss of appetite
appetite
_ _Loss
Headaches
_ _Headaches
_ _Fatigue
Fatigue
_ _Crying
Crying

Trouble falling/staying
falling/staying asleep
_ _Trouble

•

Other

- - -(Please
------------(Please describe)

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

9
54.
54. Check
Check all
all thoughts/feelings you experienced after the third month following the shooting:
Elation
Sadness
Sadness
Numbness
_ _Recurrent
Recurrent thoughts about the shooting
_ _Fear
Fear for
for safety
_ _Fear
Fear of legal and/or administrative
administrative problems
_ _Anxiety
Anxiety
Guilt
_ _Nightmares
Nightmares

•

Other

---------------(Please
(Please describe)
describe)

Yes_ _,, NoNo_ _
55.
55. Did your agency give you time off (non-punitive) after the shooting? Yes

56. Have you ever spoken with a mental health professional (e.g., psychologist, psychiatrist)
56.
psychiatrist)
about the shooting?
shooting? (Check all that apply)
_ _Yes,
Yes, my agency required me to do so
_ _Yes,
Yes, II did so
so on my own

N

Noo

57. Check all responses that fellow officers expressed to you about your shooting:
57.
support
_ _Support
Curiosity
_ _Curiosity

•

Criticism

Aggravation
_ _Aggravation

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

Other

----------------(Please
(Please describe)
describe)

10
10

58.
58. Check all
all responses
responses that superior officers
officers expressed
expressed to you about your shooting:
shooting:
_ _Support
support
_ _Curiosity
Curiosity
Criticism
_ _Aggravation
Aggravation
Other

_

describe)
(Please describe)
59. Check all responses that family
family members expressed to you about your shooting:
shooting:
_ _Support
support
_ _Curiosity
Curiosity

•

Criticism
Fear
Other

---------------(Please describe)

60. Check all responses that non-law enforcement friends expressed to you about your shooting:
_ _Support
support
_ _Curiosity
Curiosity

Criticism
Fear
Other

_

(Please describe)
of the shooting, have you had any contact with: The suspect? Yes
Yes_ _,, No-;
No__;
61. Since the date of

•
a

His/her family?
family? Yes
Yes_ _, No
No_ _;;His/her
Hislher friends?
friends? Yes
Yes_ _, NoNo_ _
Hidher

62. Prior to this shootintr,
shooting, had you participated in any officer safety/survival training other than

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

what you received in the basic academy you attended? Yes__,
No_ _
Yes
,No-

11
11
63.
63. Do you feel that whatever training you did receive prior to this shooting prepared you adequately
for
this shooting?
__,
No__
,
Nofor this
shooting? Yes
Yes 64.
64. Check all persons with whom you discussed this shooting in detail:
_ _Spouselboy
Spousehoy or girlfriend
_ _Other
Other family members
Fellow officers
_ _Supervisors
-Supervisors
_ _Clergy
Clergy
Other

----------------(Please specify)

65.
65. Who provided you with substantial support following
following this shooting? (Check all that apply)

e -

•

_ _Spouselboy
Spousehoy or girlfriend

__Other
Other family members
Fellow officers
__Supervisors
Supervisors
_ _Clergy
Clergy
Other. _ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - (Please specify)
specify)

66. Who conducted the investigation into this shooting? (Check all that apply)
66.
_ _My
My own agency
_ _Another
Another law enforcement agency
_ _District/County/State=s
District/County/State=s Attorney

0

•

U.S. Attorney/Department of Justice
-_ _U.S.
None was conducted

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

I

•
0

12
67.
Yes_ _,,NoNo_ _
67. Was
Was your
your weapon
weapon held
held as
as evidence?
evidence? Yes
If Ayes,@
Yes_ _, No
No_ _
Ayes,@were you issued another weapon? Yes-,

68.
~here you and/or your agency were named as a
68. Did this shooting
shooting result in any civil litigation where
defendant? Yes_
No _
Yes _,,No_

69.
Yes_ _,,NoNo_ _
69. Did you obtain legal advice regarding this shooting? Yes
70.
70. In your estimation,
estimation, the press coverage of this shooting was:
Extensive
-Extensive
Moderate
Minimal
Minimal
Non-existent

•
e

71.
71. Check
Check all
all categories
categories of people who caused you aggravation about this shooting:
Fellow officers
officers
_ _Superior
Superior officers
Politicians
_ _Non-police
Non-police friends
friends

-NewsNews media
office
Prosecutors office
-Suspect's
_
_Suspect's Attorney
Suspect's friends
friends and/or family
family
_ _Suspect's
Other
Other

---------------(Please specify)
(Please specify)

•
0

72. Please
Please indicate
indicate your highest level of education attained:
attained:
72.
at time
time of the
the shooting.
shooting. High School_
School _,,Some
Some College_
College _, BA/BS_
BA/BS _". More than BA/BS
at
BA/BS_ _
3-

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

at
at present
present time.
time.

@

•

High School_
BAlBS_ _
School _,,Some
Some College_
College _,,BA/BS_
BA/BS _,,More than BA/BS

13
PARTII
PART11
I

Below is
is a series
series of statements
statements representing what some officers who have'
have’been involved in shootings
have
have had to
to say
say about
about involvement in shootings. Some
Some will apply to you, others will not. Please place a
check
check in
in the
the space
space preceding each statement that represents your experience.
A person who has
has not been in a shooting incident can't
can’t really understand what it is like.
- -A
Whatever happens in the future,
future, 1I think 1I will be able to handle it.
-_ _The
marriage/relationship with my girllboyfriend.
The incident led to problems in my marriagelrelationship
_ _Thoughts
Thoughts or memories about the shooting kept coming into my mind.
___II think that the whole thing made me a better person.
_ _II felt
for the subject who was shot.
shot.
felt sorry for
_ _The
The shooting helped me to grow/mature.
grow/mature.

•

_ _II was treated like a suspect during the investigation of the incident.
_ _My
My sense
sense of humor helped me to cope with the shooting.
_ _The
The whole incident made me reevaluate what was important in my life/my goals and values.
_ _Because
ifI'll
Because of the shooting,
shooting, 1I sometimes wonder if
I’ll be able to face what the future may bring.

The way it was handled afterwards was more harmful to me than the shooting itself.
_ _The
_ _II felt that 1was
I was made a scapegoat after the incident.
_ _II was helped by my religious beliefs and/or practices.
_ _II can remember the shooting as if it happened yesterday.
_ _II was disappointed by my spouse/boy/girlfriend’s
spouse/boy/girlfriend's reaction to the incident.

sometimes felt
felt guilty about what happened.
_ _II sometimes
It’s very hard for me to find anything good about the incident and what followed.
_ _It's
followed .

•
This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

(

14
•

PREFACE EACH OF
shooting:
OF THE REMAINING STATEMENTS WITH THE TERM After the shooting:
_ _II slept more poorly than usual.
_ _II felt angry,
angry, and it helped me.
_ _II learned that 1I could trust people, and count on them in a crisis.
1I was more irritable at home and had a "shorter
“shorter fuse."
fuse.”
_ _II became more
more interested in/involved
irdinvolved with my work.

I became less interested in/involved
irdinvolved with my work.
- -1became
_ _My
My family
family was bitter towards the agency 1I worked for.
_ _II felt regret over injuring someone/taking
someonehaking a life.
_ _My
My spouse was very worried/upset.
worried/upset.

•

_ _It
It was harder for me to feel things.

e-

friends, or ,Lisure
leisure activities.
irdinvolved with my hobbies,
houuies, frlznds,
- -1I became more interested in/involved

irdinvolved with my hobbies, friends, or leisure activities.
_ _II became less interested in/involved
_ _II was more irritable with other people at work.

irdinvolved with my family.
_ _II became more interested in/involved
idinvolved with my family.
family.
_ _II became less interested in/involved
felt harassed and/or blamed by other people after the shooting.
_ _II felt
My future
future will be better than my past.
_ _My
_ _II worried a lot about the investigation into the shooting.

less cautious/concerned about situations that might involve firearms or dangers.
_ _II became less
_ _II became more cautious/concerned about situations that might involve firearms or danger.

a-

•

My child(ren)
child(ren) were very worried/upset.
worriedupset.
_ _My

hyper-alert.
_ _II became hyper-alert.

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

I(

•

15
15

1 startled more easily than before.
- -I startled more easily than before.

_ _It
helped me
me to
to help/listen
help/listen to
to others
others who
who had
had been
been involved
involved in
in shootings.
shootings.
It helped
_ _It
helped me
me to
to share
share experiences
experiences and
and feelings
feelings with
with others
others who
who had
had been
been involved
involved in
in shootings.
shootings.
It helped
_ _II trusted people
people less than
than before.
before.
_ _II felt the need
need to
to apologize to
to the
the suspect’s
suspect's family.

_ _It
It helped me to get back to my normal work routine.
_ _My
worried/upset.
My parents were very worriedhpset.
_ _My
My reaction to the incident was influenced by other shootings I1 had been involved in.
_ _II dreamed frequently about the shooting.

•

_ _I had bad dreams about things that were not related to the shooting.
_ _I felt that my happiest days are in the past.
_ _II dreamed more after the incident, but the dreams were not frightening or unpleasant.
_ _The
The people who should have supported
supported me were all busy "covering
“covering their asses."
asses.”
_ _II drank
drank more alcoholic beverages than before.
before.
_ _II had more trouble remembering things than before.
before.
_ _II had more trouble concentrating than
did before.
before.
than I did
1tried
I tried to
to avoid
avoid situations
situations similar
similar to
to it.
it.
1tried
I tried to
to avoid
avoid situations
situations that reminded
reminded me
me of it.
it.
_ _It
It helped
helped me
me to
to keep
keep my
my mind
mind off
off what
what had
had happened.
happened.

_ _Most
Most people
people were
were insensitive
insensitive to
to what
what II had
had gone
gone through.
through.

•

_ _II sometimes
was happening
happening again,
again, especially
especially if!
if I was
was in
in aa similar
similar situation.
situation.
sometimes felt
felt like
like itit was

0_
- _II feltfelt angry,
angry, and
and itit upset
upset me.
me.

This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

•

16

_ _II felt that I was the only one who really cared about me.
_ _II reviewed the incident again and again, wondering if
if I did the right thing.
_ _II had trouble explaining what happened to my children.
- -I felt more isolated from other people than I did before it.

_ _II felt 'uncomfortable/insecure
uncomfortable/insecure about being alive.
_ _II felt worse in situations that reminded me of
of the shooting.
shooting.
- -It helped me to be physically active.

_ _II mostly wanted to be left alone,
alone, even by people who were trying to help me.

- -It helped me to talk with other officers who had been involved in shooting incidents.

•

_ _It
It helped me to hear about shootings that other officers had been involved in.

Thank you for your assistance in completing this questionnaire.

F'
FiEHTY
v OFService (NCJRSJ
'
CrimlilaJ
Jusrice
Reference
6000Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS)
tJ

•
This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

(

•

17

Ii

•

•
This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

 

 

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