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Federal Grant Expands Police Fatigue Study

June 15, 2011  | 

A research study on police fatigue beginning this summer at the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center (SPRC) received a two-year, $244,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense's Office of Naval Research.

The study will focus on the role of fatigue and distraction in police officer performance, and will be completed at the center, which is located at Washington State University in Spokane.

The grant award follows a contract award from the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which provides funding for the SPRC to study the role of fatigue and distraction in police officer driving performance, comparing officers working day and night shifts.

The defense funding also will allow the researchers to examine the effects of fatigue on deadly force judgment-decision-making related to firearms use-in potentially threatening circumstances and on reporting and communications tasks. In addition, it expands the number of subjects studied from 46 to 80.

"This will be the first time anyone has simulated a police officer's whole work environment in a controlled lab setting and looked at what happens when they're as tired and well-rested as they're going to be," according to professor of criminal justice Bryan Vila, the principal investigator on the study and a researcher associated with the SPRC.

Local law enforcement officers will serve as subjects for the study, coming into the lab once at the end of a long work week and a second time at the end of a three-day period off work. Each time, they will complete a series of tasks that measure attention, driving performance, deadly force judgment and decision-making, and critical incident reporting.

Measurement instruments include a highly realistic driving simulator as well as a shooting simulator that displays video scenarios that may or may not require use of deadly force.

Although the study will look at police officers specifically, Vila said the outcomes of the study also will be relevant to military ground troops.

"Much of what soldiers and marines do on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places around the world—counterinsurgency, peacekeeping—is very similar in its challenges to what cops do," according to Vila.


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