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Responding with Fight or Flight

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 35 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2008 Pages: 166,168,170
Lindsey Bertomen
Date Published
October 2008
4 pages
This article examines the fight or flight syndrome to assist law enforcement in the recognition of the condition and understand how to respond to someone experiencing the syndrome.
The fight or flight syndrome or fight or flight reflex happens when a person experiences drastic bodily changes when presented with a threat. The fight or flight syndrome is mediated by an officer’s perception. That is, what one person may perceive as a threat, another may see as a routine incident. Fight or flight initiates in an area of the brain that is mediated by primitive or instinctual thoughts and emotions. When a person is faced with a perceived life-threatening crisis, certain bodily functions are attenuated while others temporarily cease. An officer with this response has a surge of strength that does not match his usual output. It reduces his ability to perform fine motor skills, but increases his overall speed, power, and fatigue reduction of skeletal muscles. The reduction in fine motor skills is quite pronounced. To aid law enforcement in better recognizing the syndrome and their response to the syndrome, this article addresses the following issues: training tactics to manage perceived threats, factors in altered decisionmaking, the sequestering of officers, stress, and officer empowerment through policy development.


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