Spokane researchers tackle police officer sleep deprivation



Posted on November 10, 2011 at 7:24 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 10 at 7:42 PM

SPOKANE-- A group of Spokane researchers have become the first to tackle the question: 'how tired is too tired to patrol'?

Sometimes difficult decisions come rushing at police officers with electric speed.

We're learning when officers don't get enough rest, the consequences can be tragic.
Police officers tend to work much longer shifts and odd hours, compared to the average person.

In Spokane Dr. Bryan Vila and a team of Washington State University researchers try and unlock the answers.
This is the only sleep clinic and simulation lab in the world. Researchers are putting local officers through realistic scenarios, often where they must respond with deadly force.

The scenarios are heart-jolting. The parts are played by real actors and based on real police encounters from across the country.
The simulator will record the response times of 80 officers from around the Inland Northwest.

They'll be tested first at the end of a work week.

Then new scenarios are played out again when officers are fresh after three days off.

Researchers also use simulators to measure patrol driving performance. Special headgear measures reactions via different channels of the brain.

Dr. Vila's previous research shows fatigue can impair officers much as if they'd consumed alcohol to the point of being above the legal limit.

The results of this research could influence how police departments across the country schedule officers.
The research is partially funded by the United States Department of Defense because the outcome of the study will be relevant to military ground troops.