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Criminal Justice News Fall 2013 - Vol. 2, No. 2

Helping police conduct crisis intervention

James, Lois2 Dr. Lois James is a Research Assistant Professor in the Criminal Justice and Criminology Department on the WSU Spokane campus. Her current research, funded by the Spokane Police Department, is focused on understanding the dynamics of encounters between police officers and people in crisis. The goal is to develop both interval metrics and live action training simulations in order to provide immersive training with a reliable, valid measurement instrument. With strong support from the Spokane Police Department, in particular Chief Frank Straub, the first phase of the project, the metric development, is well under way.

A two-day focus group, with 9 police officers and 9 mental health professionals, generated the content for an in-depth survey designed to quantify: 1) the extent to which the dynamics of these encounters make it more difficult to for the officer to resolve; 2) the frequency with which they tend to occur; and 3) how various performance factors seem likely to affect a positive outcome. The survey has been sent to hundreds of law enforcement officers and mental health professionals across the nation. Input has also been sought from police officers in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland.

The results of this survey will be used to develop interval level metrics to objectively assess the difficulty of a particular encounter between a law enforcement officer and a person in crisis and the subsequent performance of the officer within the encounter. The metrics can also be used in conjunction with after-action reviews of real life encounters and is not limited to use in training.

The survey will also be used to inform the writing, filming and production of high definition (HD) videos of mental health scenarios for use in deadly force judgment and decision-making simulators, which is the second phase of the project. The metrics will allow Dr. James to manipulate the level of difficulty of each scenario in a quantifiable manner. The results of the survey will also allow the identification of the key knowledge, skills, and abilities that are most important to emphasize in training.

For more information, please email Lois James or Stephen James.

Washington State University