Throwing a chair could save officers’ lives during room entries

DOI10.1177/1461355717711452
Publication Date01 June 2017
Date01 June 2017
AuthorJ Pete Blair,M Hunter Martaindale
SubjectArticles
Article
Throwing a chair could save officers’
lives during room entries
J Pete Blair
Texas State University, USA
M Hunter Martaindale
Texas State University, USA
Abstract
Law enforcement officers are sometimes required to perform building searches and room entries to search for, or
apprehend, suspects. There have been several instances where officers have been shot while performing a room entry. To
date, no research has sought to study methods to improve officer safety while performing room entries. Therefore, the
purpose of this research is to assess the efficacy of utilizing everyday objects as a distraction device to slow the reaction
speed of hostile suspects and give law enforcement officers a time advantage. The research utilizes a 1 2 experimental
design with random assignment to conditions. A sample size of 113 is utilized to conduct the study. Data are presented
using both a Bayesian and Frequentist style of analysis. The research suggests that law enforcement officers can slow
suspect reaction times by deploying basic distraction techniques. The process of slowing suspect reaction time may save
officer lives by allowing the officer to enter and assess the room while the suspect is distracted. The data utilized in this
experiment and analyses can be accessed through email with the corresponding author.
Keywords
Policing, room entry, tactics, experimental design, reaction time
Submitted 09 Dec 2016, Revise received 06 Feb 2017, accepted 23 Feb 2017
On 10 March 2015, Deputy U.S. Marshal Josie Wells was
shot and killed while trying to arrest a fugitive at a Baton
Rouge, Louisiana motel. The suspect was shot by mem-
bers of the arrest team (Officer Down Memorial Page,
2016).
Deputy U.S. Marshal Wells’ death illustrates the dan-
gers that police officers face when serving arrest warrants
or conducting searches of buildings that may contain hos-
tile suspects. One of the most dangerous times during these
searches is when officers transition from the area they
occupy to a new space, such as when officers are outside
of a motel room and then move inside (Blair and Martain-
dale, 2013). This transitioning process (often referred to
within the policing community as a room entry) is danger-
ous for two reasons. First, the officer is not able to see the
entire room until he or she enters. Therefore, the officer
does not know if a suspect is in the room or whe re the
suspect is located. The entering officer must scan the room,
detect the suspect, determine if the suspect is a threat, and
then decide on the appropriate action to take (such as shoot-
ing or giving verbal commands). Second, the suspectknows
where the police officer(s) must enter the room (i.e. the
door). This allows the suspect to position him- or herself
in a way that allows him or her to fire immediately as offi-
cers enter the room. Both realities place police officers at a
distinct disadvantage when conducting room entries.
Is there something simple that can be done to increase
the safety of police officers when they conduct room
entries? This article attempts to answer this question by
testing whether throwing a chair into a room before
Corresponding author:
M. Hunter Martaindale, Texas State University, 12 51 Sadler Dr., Suite
1200, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA.
Email: Martaindale@ALERRT.org
International Journalof
Police Science & Management
2017, Vol. 19(2) 110–119
ªThe Author(s) 2017
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DOI: 10.1177/1461355717711452
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