Human Factors in Law Enforcement

Human Factors in Law Enforcement
Learning Proactive Vigilence

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why Human Factors in Law Enforcement

Law enforcement is an honorable, challenging, rewarding and unique undertaking. Few if any careers require the diversity of knowledge and skills, along with the steadfastness of attitude, as does this noble profession.
At the same time, it is a profession filled with peril, both large and small. The Judgment Interference Factor Initiative (JIFI) is primarily a learning initiative to explore Human Factor issues in Law Enforcement. The objectives of such learning include crucial issues that logically flow, one from the other:
• Learning to think critically and objectively about oneself, one’s organization and one’s community (the operating environment); through this -
• Learning a more effective way to be as an individual in the profession and more effective perspectives from which to operate in the environment; through this -
• Learning to constantly improve officer safety and well being; emotionally, psychologically and socially; through this -
• Learning to win the hearts and minds of all the stakeholders around our basic mission of instilling safety, security and prosperity into our community and organization

Operating Environment Realities

Self: Kevin M. Gilmartin, Ph.D., considered by many to be one of the preeminent authorities on police stress and emotional survival, conjectures that a perceptual state he calls "hypervigilance" is the source of many of the psychological and sociological woes of law enforcement officers. This perceptual state regards everything at work as potentially life threatening. It causes a mild state of stimulation during the entire shift and sends the officer home wholly exhausted and increasingly unable to socialize with non-police.1

Organization: Research is demonstrating that the stress related to the events (calls for service and self initiated activity) that officers deal with on a daily basis are not the primary cause of life and career threatening stress. Rather, organizational factors such as autocratic management practices, unclear or changing expectations, inadequate communications and insufficient rewards are taking the greatest toll on the men and women of law enforcement.
Police personnel in particular are vulnerable to burnout (Kroes, 1976; Silbert, 1982) and its devastating physical and psychological effects—ranging from alcoholism and divorce to digestive disorders, coronary heart disease, and even suicide (Kroes, Margolis, and Hurrell, 1974b; Robin and Anson, 1990; Terry, 1981; Violanti, 1996)."2

Community: When officers interact with their communities, the operating environment is essentially transparent and open to worldwide scrutiny in real time! This reality begs for some tough questions:
• Why do intelligent officers with no significant history of disciplinary action calmly and intentionally do what turns out to be a career-ending act in front of their in-car video camera?3
• Why do officers viewing video of other officers killed or assaulted in the line of duty, frequently find themselves wondering how the officer on the video seems to be oblivious to the danger unfolding around him/her until it is too late?
• Why do preventable vehicular accidents continue to plague the profession with deaths, injuries, litigation, and loss of public trust and of police equipment?
• What are the long-term costs of these events in terms of stress on our members (fear, apathy and cynicism), strain on our organizations (mistrust, low morale, and low productivity) and wariness within our communities (hostility, resentment, opposition)?
• Are training processes, policies and equipment interfaces in keeping with the realities of human abilities and limitations?

More Questions
Do silos surrounded by "Blue Walls of Silence" within an organization:
• Prevent safe, open, honest communication
• Erode trust
• Destroy any air of real top to bottom accountability
• What are root causes of enduring problems? How can we learn to preclude them in the future?
Join the us on a journey of learning and development.

Critical Thinking, Learning, Analysis and Restoration Tools:

  • Foundations for Strategic Awareness: Instilling, trust, accountability and effective communication within the organizational culture
  • Couragageous Conversation Model and skill set training
  • Red Team Analysis: Recognition and mitigation of; self deception, groupthink, and other blinding presuppositions – awareness of alternative perspectives
  • High Core Values / Basic Mission Sight Alignment – (basic decision making paradigm)
  • Response to Resistance paradigm and evaluation model
  • Tactics of Regard - Honor the humanity and adversarial worth of all and let it produce mutual benefit
  • String of Perils / Dirty Dozen: Identification and mitigation of the factors (perils) that link the tasks of law enforcement to problems and catastrophes and the string all the factors ride upon
  • Root Cause Analysis Investigations
  • Organizational Environmental Pyramid (a tool for helping things go right and ferreting out root causes of problems embedded within the organization)
  • The Rule of 30 (organizational wellness evaluation and response tool)

1 Kevin Gilmartin, Ph.D., "Hypervigilance: A Learned Perceptual Set and Its Consequences on Police Stress," (accessed 4 September 2009).
2 Jeanne B. Stinchcomb, "Searching for Stress in All the Wrong Places: Combating Chronic Organizational Stressors in Policing" Police Practice and Research,Vol. 5, No. 3, July 2004, pp. 259–277. (availability for purchase verified 9 September 2009).
3 "Officers Fired over Use of Taser Gun: Police Board Says No Back Pay, Benefits for 2 Officers," (accessed 4 September 2009).
"Board: Cops to Be Fired in Miscarriage Case: Pregnant Woman Requests Treatment during Traffic Stop,", posted and updated 23 May 2008, (accessed 6 September 2009).


  1. I don't know much about this factors b'coz I'm too younger to understand all this things but I think you wrote such a wonderful information about it & I would like to say great stuff !


    Student of Police Foundations

  2. Thanks for taking the time to post, are you a college student?