Force Science Institute Examines Traffic Stop Safety

By Carlton Purvis

A law enforcement research center is looking for ways to protect police officers during traffic stops and help officers cope with memory loss that occurs during traumatic events.

A portion of the “Traffic Stop Study” by the Force Science Institute was conducted in Hillsboro, Oregon, this week and documented by the Canadian Discovery Channel and the Oregonian.

The study is comprised of several different components that include how officers talk to suspects, how they take cover, and how they approach vehicles.

“We’re trying to determine which positions ultimately prove to be the safest and which retreat patterns are effective at getting the officers out of the danger zone very quickly,” Force Science Institute Vice President of Operations Scott Buhrmaster said by phone on Tuesday.

Buhrmaster says the study collected large amounts of data, identifying specific retreat patterns officers use and positions officers take when facing the threat of a firearm. He estimates the results of the study will be released sometime later this year.

How high-stress incidents affect an officer’s memory were another component of the study. "What we find is that officers will have a lot of memory gaps,” Alexis Artwohl, a retired police psychologist, told the Oregonian. Alexis said officers should understand that this is a normal part of traumatic events and that there’s nothing wrong with not remembering everything.

"No one, including police officers, can be expected to have perfect recall. If they don't, it does not mean they are lying or incompetent," she said.

photo by bill85704/flickr


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