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New study finds lack of sleep may cause deadly police errors

Posted at 7:35 PM, Oct 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-15 10:29:55-04

An alarming new study has found sleep deprivation may cause deadly police errors and slow-reaction times in shoot or don't shoot situations.

David Blake, a retired California police officer, and Dr. Edward Cumella, a professor of psychology at Kaplan University, conducted the study to address the impact of fatigue on officers' performance in deadly force simulations.

For a week, Blake and Cumella's research examined how a lack of shut-eye impacted 53 officers decision-making and reaction-times when responding to shoot or don't shoot situations.  

"There decision-making and reaction-time slows down when they become more and more fatigued," said Blake.

The results were astounding.

About 69 percent of officers reported fatigue-related mistakes on the job and 40 percent don't recognize they're affected, according to the study.

"We saw a drop of about 12 percent in reaction times, which may sound small, but unfortunately these things happen in milliseconds," further explained Blake.

Dr. Richard Shane is a behavioral sleep specialist based in Boulder. He is already working with law enforcement agencies, including the Denver Police Department, to improve officer's sleep.

"The police field is very committed to addressing the issue of police and sleep," he said. "We're just addressing one factor that hasn't really been addressed as much as it should be." 

Blake also said he thinks law enforcement agencies should also consider officer fatigue when investigating officer-involved shootings. 

"I would suggest that it would be a good idea to start looking at that, finding out how much rest or how fatigued an officer may be if there involved in a situation like this," he said. 

Blake said he hopes to conduct another similar study in the near future. 

7NEWS reached out the Denver Police Union for comment about the study, but did not hear back.