Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Study on the Impact of Work-Shift Related Fatigue on Deadly Force Judgment and Decision Making Coalition

Renaissance Sciences Corporation – $211,195
6/15/15 – 6/14/17

In 2014, U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, identified the three most fundamental issues faced by law enforcement as: (a) police officer health and safety, (b) public perceptions of how respectfully, fairly, and justly police officers treat people; and (c) dramatically reduced budgets and staffing that make it imperative that police agencies get the best possible return on their investments in human capital. The objectives of this research are to identify fatigue related problems and opportunities that affect these three issues and to disseminate the results of the research analyses.


The proposed research expands and complements our recent proposal to the Office of Naval Research under BAA15-001. The ONR proposal will analyze exploratory data from our recently completed set of ONR-funded experiments to identify and develop new ways to manage fatigue and understand its impact on warfighters’ safety and health, interactions with non-combatants, and driving. Specifically, the requested funding will enable us to test 10 new hypotheses that were beyond the scope of the original project funding.

This subcontract will leverage the ONR proposal via a subcontract through NAVAIR funded by the Defense Preparedness Support Initiative which will share research costs and fund translation of research results to civilian police and other first responders—whose performance is critical to homeland security—as well as researchers and policy makers.

The critical need to test these 10 additional hypotheses is an exciting outcome of the original ONR-funded study, which has yielded an even larger amount of valuable data than expected. This is because—in addition to the primary objectives of the study—we developed and tested novel research technologies such as ambulatory functional near-infrared brain imaging (fNIR), computerized simulations of tactical social interactions, and eye-gaze enhancements to our high-fidelity driving simulators. These technologies functioned beyond our expectations and produced very large data sets (>3TB) that will result in extremely valuable information when analyzed.

Fatigue management affects nearly every aspect of the work of police and other first responders that involves human decision making, information collection, communication and reporting, adaptability in complex, hazardous operational environments, or operational safety and health. However, very little is known about how to manage operational fatigue
Our focus on individual-level effects of fatigue is especially important in these operational groups. Fatigue-related degradation of first responders’ perception, judgment, decision making, performance, and stress management can undermine officer safety and health—and it also can undermine public perceptions of the police and justice. Thus, our lack of knowledge about how to manage the individual-level effects of fatigue constitutes a critical need.

We will address this need by testing 10 new hypotheses that:

  1. Provide first responders with an empirical basis for setting work-hours, scheduling, and equipment-use policies, training drivers to better manage fatigue and distraction load, and improving the structure and presentation of instruments and equipment inside motorized vehicles;
  2. Identify individual risk factors associated with performance of operational driving, deadly force judgment and decision making, and tactical social interaction in order to understand the extent to which performance is affected by fatigue-related risk propensity, PTSD symptomology, and mood;
  3. Assess the impact of fatigue on first responders’ tactical social interaction skills and other behaviors that influence community members’ perceptions of their legitimacy, fairness and civility; and
  4. Assess the extent to which fatigue-related driving accidents may be reduced by understanding the effects of fatigue and the timing of work shifts on collision risks as well as operational costs such as fuel consumption and maintenance.

As the results of this work are completed, we will actively disseminate research results to police and other first responders.

Primary Investigator

Bryan Vila, PhD