Simulated (Un-)armed Confrontations and Police Decision Making: Examining Influencing Factors on Tactical Decision Making

Staller, MS ORCID: 0000-0002-8608-9098
(2016) Simulated (Un-)armed Confrontations and Police Decision Making: Examining Influencing Factors on Tactical Decision Making. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

[thumbnail of 200783883_Oct2016.pdf] Text
200783883_Oct2016.pdf - Unspecified

Download (18MB)


This thesis examines how the tactical decision making of (mainly) German Police Officers was influenced by several factors that are salient in training and operational environments. First, the effects of conventional ammunition (CA) versus non-lethal training ammunition (NLTA) in training settings on psychophysiological parameters and working memory were compared. It was found, that there is no difference in psychophysiological response to a demanding training exercise with regards to different ammunition used. This indicates that there are no differences between CA and NLTA with regards to representativeness of training. Second, a tactical scenario and a physical exercise were compared with regards of the effects on executive functioning. The findings yielded that executive functioning was equally enhanced due to a physical exercise compared to tactical scenario. This leads to the conclusion that cognitive adaptions are probably caused by physical demand. Third, the effects of previous experience in (simulated) violent confrontations on threat-related attentional biases and risk taking were investigated. The results showed, that previous experience as a police officer or a martial artist had no effect on threat-related attentional biases or risk taking. Fourth, the impact of ego depletion on police officers when provoked by a role player in a scenario were quantitatively assessed. The findings revealed that a state of ego depletion shortened the time when police officers displayed offensive aggression towards a provocative role player compared to non-depleted officers. Taken together the current work provided evidence, that: (a) tactical decision making of officers is influenced by physiological load and ego depletion, and (b) the use of CA and NLTA does not influence psychophysiological demand. In line with previous research on human defensive behaviour, the observed cognitive shifts under conditions of threat can be interpreted as an adaptive behaviour in order to cope with the demand at hand. However, the current results indicate that these cognitive shifts may be mediated by physiological arousal. Further research is needed to further clarify this relationship. With regards to threat-related attentional bias, the current work indicates that current paradigms probably are not capable of capturing functional threat- related attentional bias. Furthermore, it could be argued, that current training settings do not provide enough valid cues in order to learn functional threat- related attentional bias. Therefore, future work should employ more valid cues in the context of police use of force to further investigate the development of functional threat-related attentional bias. Concerning ego depletion and self-regulation, the current work for the first time demonstrates that depleted self-control resources transfer to observable physical aggression. Since there is evidence that self-control performance varies across contexts the obtained results are important for both the aggression and the police use of force domain. As such the results are in line with current theories of self-control. From a practical perspective the results shed light on the design of representative learning and testing environment in the police of force domain: The use of NLTA in the police use of force training should be broadened at the expense of CA, allowing for safer and more representative training settings. Furthermore, police training should emphasize enhancing physical fitness and self-control. However, further research aiming at developing self- control in the police use of force context is clearly needed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Tech, Infrastructure and Environmental Directorate
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2017 15:14
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 07:20
DOI: 10.17638/03005407
  • Cole, JC
  • Christiansen, P