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Intutive Policing: Emotional/Rational Decision Making in Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 73 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2004 Pages: 1-6
Anthony J. Pinizzotto Ph.D.; Edward F. Davis M.A.; Charles E. Miller III
Date Published
February 2004
6 pages
This article reports preliminary findings from a study on intuitive policing.
The introduction details a drug investigation in which one officer knew an offender possessed a gun, but could not recall exactly how he knew it. The case represents an act of intuitive policing, in which the officer unconsciously picked up on nonverbal cues given by the offender that led to the officer’s awareness of the gun presence. The article explores the anatomy of the brain to show how danger signals travel through the brain to initiate responses before one becomes consciously aware of them. The result is a “gut feeling” or “intuition” that unconsciously informs officers of events unfolding around them. The arousal of the autonomic nervous system that leads to the secretion of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine is described as part of the process involved in intuitive policing. The fight or flight reaction to danger that officers regularly find themselves experiencing allows them to act on “gut feelings” before they can consciously piece together why they are reacting. Realistic academy training is designed to mimic real encounters officers are likely to have on the job. If the training is realistic enough, the autonomic nervous system will become aroused in a fight or flight manner so that officers can better understand the biopsychological responses that occur on the street. Training should include lessons on recalling details of events in which a preconscious response was initiated. Through awareness training of preconscious responses, officers will be better able to articulate in police reports why suspicion was aroused or why certain actions were taken. Endnotes