Former MN professor's defense of deadly force by police is used often, but criticized


A former Minnesota professor is often there to defend the actions of police officers who shoot people under questionable circumstances, and even instructs police officers to shoot first.

Dr. William Lewinski, professor emeritus at Minnesota State University, Mankato, was recently profiled by the New York Times about his methods to justify officer-involved shootings around the country.

The profile comes after a string of deadly police shootings across the country, which have prompted calls for officers to slow down and consider different decisions before using force.

But Lewinski, who is the founder and director of Mankato-based Force Science Institute (FSI), believes differently.

He argues if officers wait to act, they are putting themselves at risk, the New York Times notes.

Lewinski's bio describes him as a behavioral scientist who specializes in law enforcement-related issues, with a focus on human behavior in force encounters. He's conducted his own research on the topic through FSI.

He also offers training for law enforcement officials on how to respond in high-stress situations, and is a paid consultant on officer-involved shooting cases in the U.S. and Canada.

Lewinski's methods criticized

He's been recognized as an expert in reaction, perception and memory, and has testified or consulted in more than 200 cases around the country, using his theories and research to defend police officers who shoot people under "questionable circumstances," the New York Times notes.

City Pages, which profiled Lewinski in 2010, said his expertise is used to "present a scientific-sounding justification for what looks on its face unjustifiable," noting he uses his research to back up his theory that police have to make a quick decision to survive – even if the person who the officer shot doesn't seem like a threat.

But that theory has been heavily criticized, with some calling his research "invalid and unreliable" and "pseudoscience," the New York Times says. One California prosecutor even described him as "an uncredentialed police expert who will say whatever they need to justify the situation," the San Francisco Gate reported last year.

Lewinski says his research is based on trying to keep officers safe.

"Lewinski has found a niche, and it's a lucrative one," Roger Clark, a former police officer who also serves as an expert witness in police use-of-force cases, told City Pages. "The problem is that his work encourages bad police practices and makes it harder to hold anyone accountable when they go wrong."

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