The U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with support from George Mason University and the Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute (HSSEDI), recently concluded a two-week Use of Force Simulation Experiment (SIMEX) to examine law enforcement use of force and inform best practices for 21st century policing.

“It was a privilege to meet the law enforcement, human behavior and technology professionals who participated in this simulation exercise,” said David Pekoske, Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Secretary. “I expect the results of their work will provide law enforcement agencies with valuable information that may help shape the development of techniques, tactics and procedures as well as related training on the use of force in law enforcement situations. This two-week long exercise and the months of advance work further strengthens partnerships with the goal of protecting people and communities across the country.”

The SIMEX focused on analyzing five factors, 1) suspect resistance, 2) suspect armed, 3) mental health professional present, 4) suspect race, and 5) suspect mental state, to determine, in an evidence-based way, if these contribute to any differences in how an officer applies force. The experiment provided insight into how, when, and to what extent law enforcement officers (LEOs) apply force by better understanding the underlying officers’ decision-making process. The goal was to provide data informed recommendations that will support the deterrence and reduction of arrest-related fatalities and injuries due to law enforcement Use of Force. The ultimate outcome is to bolster officer preparedness in their efforts to further avoid arrest-related fatalities and injuries. The SIMEX report is set to be released in June. This project comes at a critical time when communities are focused on improving relationships with law enforcement officials and building trust. The Department takes seriously its mission to support law enforcement at all levels, and that means proactively providing evidence-based research on law enforcement related matters, bolstering training, and preparing officers to carry out their respective missions safely and with the utmost respect for communities across the country.

The SIMEX, conducted at the MITRE National Security Experimentation Lab in McLean, Va., utilized virtual reality (VR) to emulate officer and civilian encounters within a simulated urban outdoor setting. The results of the study will provide law enforcement organizations evidence-based data to examine and evolve policies and procedures; develop Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) for operations; and examine current technologies and configurations. 

This SIMEX study was funded by approximately $1 million across the Department, including the Office of Partnership and Engagement, Office for State and Local Law Enforcement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), U.S. Secret Service (USSS), and DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T).

It also included participation from local, state, tribal, and federal agencies, civilian oversight and civil rights organizations, and mental health organizations, including Crisis Intervention Team, International (CIT, International), Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST), Major City Chiefs Association (MCCA), National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) among others.