Cognitive Bias and Use of Force Investigations

David M. Blake


The contemporary social/political negativity directed toward law enforcement (LE) has been historically cyclic. However, technology advances have substantially increased the dissemination of controversial police force responses via media outlets and have had a substantial influence on law enforcement. Research suggests media framing may affect beliefs and decisions and has been shown to influence politics and police executives. No known research explores the affective extension of negative media, social unrest, and political pressure on investigations regarding a law enforcement officer’s force response. The current climate has correlated with increased prosecutions of officers involved in viral force response incidents with critics stating the prosecutions are biased. The current research establishes a hypothesis concerning the influence of negative media, social reactions, and politics in biasing police force response investigations. The hypothesis provides a platform to discuss the types of investigatory biases to include those created by a lack of understanding human performance science. Evidence-based recommendations of de-biasing are provided as a means to ensure objectivity


Cognitive Bias, Human Performance, Use of Force, Law Enforcement Investigations, Heuristics, Police

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ISSN 1942-7794