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Lethal Force Encounters Yet Another Opportunity For Engineering Education

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.862.1 - 9.862.11



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Paper Authors

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William Lewinski

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William Hudson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session Number 1793

Lethal Force Encounters - Yet Another Opportunity for Engineering Education

William B. Hudson, William Lewinski

Minnesota State University, Mankato Mankato, Minnesota


Interdisciplinary research at Minnesota State University, Mankato and the cooperation of Tempe Police Department has made it possible to develop instrumentation and to establish baseline performance metrics for the evaluation of human performance in extreme encounters. A Motorola MC68HC11 microcontroller board was adapted by two Electrical Engineering graduate students who had no previous computer interfacing experience to control 27 Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and to track the trigger position of a modified training pistol. Software to control and support the system came from integration of commercial packages and student authored code. The system created was used to test over 100 Tempe police department officers during the summer of 2003. The measurements obtained by this testing have made it possible to establish both how quickly the “average” officer can pull the trigger given a “go” signal and also how long it takes for the “average” officer to quit firing the weapon given a “stop” signal under a variety of cognitive load conditions. This research has created an environment in which graduate students have learned about hardware design and integration, software engineering and validation, and compressed design cycles. Students involved in this research have also learned that research schedules are many times driven by factors outside of their control.


Currently there are at least three police officers in this country facing homicide charges because of a shooting incident. During the past four years the second author of this paper has provided expert testimony on human performance in 20 civil cases, 9 criminal cases, 17 grand juries, has been featured twice on Court TV and has been involved in numerous arbitrations. Scientific research spanning engineering and human performance is being used to obtain information to appropriately evaluate lethal force encounters.

This paper will describe current research efforts by the Tempe Police Department and faculty and students from Minnesota State University, Mankato. The equipment developed and information obtained from these efforts has significant implications in evaluating an officer’s Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Lewinski, W., & Hudson, W. (2004, June), Lethal Force Encounters Yet Another Opportunity For Engineering Education Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13593

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