SPOKANE, Wash. – A research study on police fatigue that starts this summer at the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center (SPRC) has received a funding boost from the U.S. Department of Defense. A two-year, $244,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research has nearly doubled the funding for and expanded the scope of the study, which will focus on the impact of fatigue and distraction in police officer performance.
The grant award follows a contract award from the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which provides funding for the SPRC to study the role of fatigue and distraction in police officer driving performance, comparing officers working day shifts and night shifts.
Defense funding also will allow the researchers to examine the effects of fatigue on deadly force judgment and decision making in potentially threatening circumstances and on reporting and communications tasks. In addition, it expands the number of subjects studied from 46 to 80.

“This will be the first time anyone has simulated a police officer’s whole work environment in a controlled lab setting and compared their performance when they’re tired versus well-rested,” said professor of criminal justice Bryan Vila, the principal investigator on the study and a researcher with the SPRC.

Local law enforcement officers will serve as subjects for the study, coming into the lab once at the end of a long work week and a second time at the end of a three-day period off work. Each time, they will complete a series of tasks that measure attention, driving performance, deadly force judgment and decision-making, and critical incident reporting.
Measurement instruments include a highly realistic driving simulator as well as a shooting simulator that displays video scenarios that may or may not require use of deadly force.
Although the study will look at police officers specifically, Vila said the outcomes of the study also will be relevant to military ground troops.
“Much of what soldiers and marines do on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places around the world—counterinsurgency, nation building, peacekeeping—is very similar in its challenges to what cops do,” he said.