POLICE KILLING “EXPERT” UNDER ATTACK

A video depicting the last moments of Paul Boyd crawling on the ground, unarmed, just before he is shot and killed (nine shots were fired) by a Vancouver police officer illustrates the importance of hiring an “expert” to defend the actions of the police officer. Not long after the incident, the police commissioner determined that there “was insufficient evidence to establish that the officer’s use of force was excessive in the circumstances”. The commissioner apparently relied on the opinion of psychologist William Lewinski, a factor that angered people, including the victim’s father, David Boyd. When the father learned of Lewinski’s involvement in the case, he questioned his credibility stating, “There’s no point in asking someone [about an issue] when you know what the answer’s going to be”, according to CBC News.

Lewinski heads a business called “Force Science Institute” where the webpage states, “Force Science is the research and application of unbiased scientific principles and processes to determine the true nature of human behavior in high stress and deadly force encounters”.  He puts on training courses around the country and often testifies in cases where a police officer’s decision to shoot someone is in question. In short, he is a paid “expert” witness- someone who usually provides favorable information before a judge, jury or other entity (such as a police commissioner) for money. His credibility has been called into question long before the questionable Boyd killing. A civil rights lawyer was quoted and paraphrased in a CBC News – British Columbia report as follows:

[Three years ago, Pasadena, Calif., civil rights lawyer John Burton represented the family of a man who was shot while he was obeying police to get on the ground. Burton argued that Lewinski’s opinions explaining what happened were “nonsense,” “bogus” and “pseudo-scientific gloss.”

The judge agreed, barring Lewinski from testifying because his testimony lacked “scientific foundation.”

Burton is unequivocal: “My advice would be to treat Lewinski for what he is; he’s partisan, he’s paid for, he always testifies for the police officer and he will always justify a shooting,” he says. “If that’s what you want, is some pseudo-scientist with a PhD after his name to get up there … let a cop off the hook for a bad shooting, he’s your go-to guy.” ]

In another controversial case involving the shooting death of a toy-gun carrying 13-year-old boy by a police officer, the Sonoma County District Attorney consulted with Lewinski. The deputy sheriff, Erick Gelhaus, shot Lopez seven times as the teenager walked near his home carrying a plastic replica of a AK-47 rifle. According to the SFGATE, Lewinski opined that the plastic gun looked like the real thing from a distance and that “from a behavioral science perspective and an action/reaction paradigm”,it was OK that he kept firing until the threat was gone.

The New York Times reports that Lewinski has been severely criticized because of his lack of scientific expertise. Lewinski would call these political arguments. The Times reports:

[“A former Minnesota State professor, he says his testimony and training are based on hard science, but his research has been roundly criticized by experts. An editor for The American Journal of Psychology called his work “pseudoscience.” The Justice Department denounced his findings as “lacking in both foundation and reliability.” Civil rights lawyers say he is selling dangerous ideas.

‘People die because of this stuff,” said John Burton, a California lawyer who specializes in police misconduct cases. “When they give these cops a pass, it just ripples through the system’.”]

In the wake of recent police shootings across the nation, Lewinski would be expected to stay busy- after all, it seems that he has never heard of a police-shooting case where the cop was not justified in killing the victim. I wonder if Lewinski would argue that Michael Slager is justified for shooting his victim in the back- I wouldn’t place any bets on it.

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